Category Archives: Yemen

"Dirty Wars" The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in Yemen

Video By Democracy Now!

The Obama administration’s assassination of two U.S. citizens in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old Denver-born son Abdulrahman, is a central part of Jeremy Scahill’s new book, “Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.” The book is based on years of reporting on U.S. secret operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration has defended the killing of Anwar, it has never publicly explained why Abdulrahman was targeted in a separate drone strike two weeks later.

Scahill reveals CIA Director John Brennan, Obama’s former senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, suspected that the teenager had been killed “intentionally.” “The idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a — we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country,” says Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine.

Today the U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality. “Dirty Wars” is also the name of a new award-winning documentary by Scahill and Rick Rowley, which will open in theaters in June. We air the film’s new trailer.


Posted April 23, 2013

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing today on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality. At today’s hearing, a Yemeni man whose family village was just hit by a U.S. drone strike is testifying alongside one of the key figures in developing President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, retired James Cartwright.
Well, today we spend the hour with Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent at The Nation magazine, longtime Democracy Now!correspondent. For the past several years, Jeremy has been working on a book and film documenting America’s expanded covert wars and targeted killing program. This is the just-released trailer to his new film, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. It’s directed by Rick Rowley.
JEREMY SCAHILL: I got a strange phone call. Someone from the inside was reaching out to me, someone close to the heart of the president’s elite force.
ANONYMOUS SOURCE: There are hundreds of covert operations on multiple continents in full support of the White House.
JEREMY SCAHILL: It’s hard to say when the story began.
Greetings from Kabul, Afghanistan.
This was supposed to be the front line in the war on terror.
U.S. SOLDIER: What’s the name of this village out here?
JEREMY SCAHILL: But I knew I was missing the story. There was another war, hidden in the shadows. A night raid.
So there’s the two men in the guest house with the first people killed.
GARDEZ RESIDENT 1: Mm-hmm.
GARDEZ RESIDENT 2: [translated] One woman was four-months, the other was five-months pregnant.
JEREMY SCAHILL: You saw the U.S. forces take the bullets out of the body?
MOHAMMED SABIR: [translated] Yes.
U.S. SOLDIER: On your face! On your face!
JEREMY SCAHILL: Who were these men that stormed into Daoud’s home? And why would they go to such horrifying lengths to cover up their actions?
ANONYMOUS SOURCE: Terror strikes, targeted killings—a lot it was of questionable legality.
JEREMY SCAHILL: How had a covert unit taken over the largest war on the planet?
RACHEL MADDOW: Joining us now is Jeremy Scahill.
LOU DOBBS: Jeremy Scahill.
PAT BUCHANAN: They’re dismissing what you’ve done.
JAY LENO: Why are you still alive? Are you paranoid? Is that the guy we did Maher with? Oh, he’s dead. What happened? He had an accident.
JEREMY SCAHILL: The list of raids read like a map of a hidden war.
MATTHEW HOH: The right guys would get targeted. Plenty of other times, the wrong people would get killed.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Algeria, Indonesia, Thailand, Jordan.
UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] If children are terrorists, then we are all terrorists
ANONYMOUS SOURCE: What we have essentially done is created one hell of a hammer. And for the rest of our generation, this force will be continually searching for a nail.
GEOFF MORRELL: Despite whatever conspiratorial theories, there is nothing to it.
UNIDENTIFIED: If they are dangerous, if they are too strong, definitely has a missile in its future.
SENRON WYDEN: It’s important to know when the president can kill an American citizen and when they can’t.
UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] If the Americans do this again, we are ready to shed our blood fighting them.
MOHAMED QANYARE: When you are fighting the enemy, any option is open. No mercy. America knows war. They are war masters.
AMY GOODMAN: This is the first time this trailer has been broadcast globally on television and radio. This is the trailer to Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, a new film by Rick Rowley and Jeremy Scahill. The film opens in theaters in June.
Jeremy Scahill’s book, Dirty Wars, is being published today. Jeremy takes a deep look at America’s new covert wars operated by theCIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond, Jeremy shines a light on America’s unregulated and increasingly unilateral global assassination program. Two central figures in the book are Anwar al-Awlaki and his Denver-born 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, two American citizens killed in separate U.S. drone strikes in Yemen in 2011.
Today, an exclusive hour with Jeremy Scahill. I began by asking him to talk about cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Anwar al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen who was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His father is quite an extraordinary guy. He, Dr. Nasser Aulaqi, had come as a very young student to the United States, and he studied English as a young man in Lawrence, Kansas, and ended up getting a number of degrees in the United States. In fact, he was the alum of the year in 2002 at New Mexico State University, where he got one of his degrees. Very distinguished person in Yemen. And as a young man growing up in—as he put it, in a country that didn’t have a name yet, growing up in the south of Yemen, he dreamt of going to the United States, and his dream came true as a young man.
And so, he was a college student in the United States when his young—when Anwar was born, in 1971. And he really wanted to raise Anwar as an American. He viewed America as the—you know, to quote Reagan, sort of a paraphrased Reagan—the shining city atop the hill. I mean, he really did view it that way. And I looked at his essays from when he first came to the United States, and all of the international students wrote essays about, you know, what it was they wanted to get out of it. And he said that “the progressivism of America was electric, and I wanted to be a part of that, and I wanted to take my education and go back to my very poor country and to make something of my life.” And so he started to build this family, and they lived in Minneapolis. And they showed me pictures of Anwar pointing out Yemen on the globe in his classroom, and he couldn’t pronounce the teacher’s name, so he just called her “Mrs. M.” And, you know, there were photos of him at Disney World and—or, Disneyland in California.
And so, you had this family that really wanted to do two things. They wanted to raise their children in the tradition of the American spirit, but they also wanted to give back to their country. And when Dr. Nasser Aulaqi got his engineering degrees, he went back to Yemen and became the minister of agriculture and engineering in Yemen, and he actually built an entire faculty at the university. He founded this department, working with USAID and other U.S. officials to build this school of agricultural engineering. And his main life’s work has been to deal with the water crisis in Yemen, because Yemen is running out of water.
So, Anwar moved back with him, went to an international school in Yemen, where he was studying in both English and Arabic. His English was stronger than his Arabic, because he had spent the first seven years of his life in the U.S. So he was in a very international atmosphere. In fact, Anwar Awlaki went to school with the men who would end up working on the kill program, from the Yemeni side, to try to hunt him down, with the children of the country’s dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. He went to school with some of them. And so, then later in life, their paths would cross again.
AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t he go to school with Saleh’s son?
JEREMY SCAHILL: He did, yes, and I write about that in the book. And it’s sort of—you know, Yemen, in a way, is a very small neighborhood and—when you’re dealing with government ministers. This was a school, actually, that Nasser al-Aulaqi helped to found in Yemen, this primary school, and it, to this day, remains one of the top schools in Yemen.
So when Anwar finished high school, he wanted to go to the United States, and originally he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps, and he was going to study engineering. And he arrived in the United States and was detained at the airport when he flew back into the United States, because there was a discrepancy on his passport. His Yemeni passport said that he was born in Yemen, and his American passport said that he was born in the United States—actually, the other way around. His American passport said that he was born in Yemen. And the reason it did is because a U.S. official had told Nasser al-Aulaqi, “If you want to get your son a scholarship in the United States, we should say that he’s born in Yemen, so you can have his birth certificate reissued in Yemen, and then he can get the travel documents.” So, he ran into trouble because his passport—there were some discrepancies with his paperwork, so that was sort of his first run-in with law enforcement. But it was resolved, and he was released, and he ended up going to school in Colorado.
And this was right at the time when the mujahideen war in Afghanistan—you know, of course, the United States on the side of the mujahideen fighting against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan—was sort of coming to an end, and the 1991 Gulf War was beginning. And Anwar had never been a particularly religious guy, and he had never been a particularly political guy, but he, like a lot of people—and, I mean, I remember this myself; I was in high school when the Gulf War started. It was really the first time that I came to terms with the fact that these wars happen, and I remember being very scared myself. And I think that, you know, Anwar, that deeply affected him, and he saw the destruction of Baghdad the first time around, and started going to antiwar meetings and was invited to go and speak at a local mosque about the war and about student organizing. And the imam at that mosque said, “You know, you have a real gift for speaking,” and started to invite him back. And Anwar, this sort of fire was lit in him, and he decided he wanted to change course in life and decided to study to become an imam, and he immersed himself in Islamic scholarship and, in fact, became an imam, and eventually moved to San Diego and started his family. And his eldest son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was born in 1995. He was actually born in Denver, Colorado. And the Awlakis started to build a life for themselves, and Anwar was an imam.
When 9/11 happened, Anwar al-Awlaki was living in Virginia, and he was the imam at a very large, prominent mosque, the Dar Al-Hijrah religious center in Falls Church, Virginia. And when 9/11 happened, Awlaki became the go-to imam for large, powerful corporate media outlets in the United States to understand the experience of American Muslims in the aftermath of the attacks. And Awlaki passionately denounced the 9/11 attacks, said the United States had a right to hunt down those responsible and bring them to justice. He was someone that was profiled by The Washington Post for a piece that they did about Ramadan. He was on PBS and NPR and was talking about this, the feelings of many American Muslims, which is that you hear a president in George Bush saying it’s a crusade and basically putting a number of Muslim countries, you know, in the crosshairs around the world, the start of the rumblings toward the invasion of Iraq, the initial invasion of Afghanistan, clearly sort of turning into something that was going to be a much longer-term presence. And Awlaki was affected by all of this. And when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, you saw a real sort of tilt toward a radicalization in Awlaki.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be back with war correspondent Jeremy Scahill on his new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, in a minute.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: “Freedom,” sung by Richie Havens in 1969. He died yesterday at the age of 72 at his home in New Jersey. This isDemocracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re continuing our conversation with Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, the book coming out today. We return to Jeremy talking about Anwar al-Awlaki and his time in the United States.
JEREMY SCAHILL: There’s this a whole other part of this story, which is that Awlaki, at his mosque in San Diego, two of the 9/11 hijackers had been—had attended services at his mosque, and a third one had also attended services with one of the other guys at his mosque in Virginia. And the FBI—he was already on their radar, but they brought Awlaki in a number of times for questioning, and they basically cleared him and said that he had—you know, had nothing to do with those guys except knowing them peripherally in his mosque. But that’s been the source of a lot of—of intense scrutiny in the aftermath of the attack and everything that happened with Awlaki, because some people believe that he was directly attached to the 9/11 attacks, which I think is a preposterous—I mean, it’s nonsensical to think that these guys would have keyed in Anwar Awlaki to the 9/11 attacks at a time when he was viewed as a very moderate guy. He endorsed George Bush for president in the 2000 election. In fact, Bush had a lot of support in the Arab-American community, because many people felt that he would be better than Al Gore on the issue of Palestine. And so, you know—but Awlaki had had this contact with these 9/11 hijackers. He also had been busted twice on solicitation of prostitute charges, and then those were resolved through community service and probation. But—
AMY GOODMAN: And were they real?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, we don’t know. Awlaki says that they weren’t, that it was a—that it was a setup. You know, I’ve—
AMY GOODMAN: To try to flip him?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, so what happened is that he gets busted, I think the first time in ’96 in San Diego on a solicitation charge, and then he’s pulled in. And he claimed—Awlaki claimed that the FBI tried to get him to start informing on people in his mosque and keeping an eye on them and telling them who was coming in and out of his mosque, and, you know, claimed that he told them to get lost. There was actually an interesting sort of development with this whole story, in that Awlaki had repeated interactions with the FBI. And I talked to a former senior FBI agent who had worked the Awlaki case, and said he believed that the bureau was trying to flip him or that they maybe had in fact gotten Awlaki to start doing some informing.
And so, when Awlaki then, years later, leaves the United States, he’s looking—you know, in terms of his public persona, he’s looking at the impending invasion of Iraq, he’s looking at Guantánamo starting to grab headlines around the world and the images that we saw coming out of that, people being dressed in orange jumpers with hoods on their head, and, you know, eventually then the Abu Ghraib photos. But he also had this private battle that he was waging with the FBI. They were really putting pressure on him to become a full-blown informant.
And so, Awlaki, for a combination of reasons, ends up leaving the United States, spends a number of years in Britain, is a very prominent figure, popular at Islamic centers and mosques, and still is preaching a message that was very much in line, I think, with mainstream antiwar thinking and also was in line with how a lot of Muslims around the world were feeling about the—about the increasing global wars. And that’s really when Awlaki started to end up on the radar of the U.S. counterterrorism community, because they viewed him as someone who was speaking a language that a lot of diaspora Muslims, English-speaking Muslims around the world, could relate to. And they saw him sort of becoming more and more radical.
Awlaki then goes back to Yemen, where his father was living and was at the university. And his parents build him an apartment for him and his young family in their compound in Sana’a. And I’ve visited, and I’ve been in the apartment. It’s sort of a big compound, and the family has—each of the siblings have their families within this compound. And so, Awlaki was there, and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. His dad—and it was sort of joking, but he’s like, “Anwar had these dreams of getting involved with real estate.” And he always had some, you know, idea of how he was going to make money, but really he was just trying to—he was a man trying to figure himself out. And he started preaching at some mosques in Yemen and attended classes at a university there.
And then, in 2006, he is arrested on trumped-up charges of having intervened in a tribal dispute in Yemen, and he spends 18 months in prison in Yemen, 17 of them in solitary confinement. And he comes out a totally changed man. And I get into the book his prison writings. And they would only allow him, you know, certain books, but he read the book by Michael Scheuer, the former CIA operative, his writings about bin Laden. He read a lot of Dickens and was—made comparisons of the U.S. government to various characters in Great Expectations. And, you know, he did food reviews of the prison food. But he—you could really see that when came out, he was a changed man.
AMY GOODMAN: And why was he imprisoned?
JEREMY SCAHILL: So, he was—my understanding is that he was arrested initially on a request from the United States that—and I heard from a former senior Yemeni official that there was a meeting with John Negroponte, who at the time was the director of national intelligence, with Bandar Bush, you know, the Saudi ambassador, then the Saudi ambassador to Washington, one of the most powerful diplomats in the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Very close to the Bush family.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Very close to the Bush family. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Who, two days after 9/11, was having cigars with President Bush on the Truman balcony.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Exactly. And, of course, the Saudis run a huge portion of the U.S. counterterrorism operations to this day in Yemen. I mean, the U.S. has basically outsourced anything vaguely resembling intelligence in Yemen to a network of Saudi spies and to Saudi intelligence. I mean, that’s a whole other fascinating story. But there was this meeting in Washington with Yemen’s ambassador, Bandar Bush and John Negroponte, where Negroponte said that they wanted, according to my sources, Awlaki kept in prison for four or five years so that people would forget about him, because he was starting to become popular at that time. His books and his speeches were on sale in airports around the Middle East and also very popular in London and elsewhere. And they basically just wanted him to go away. And so, he was kept in prison for 18 months without charge. The United Nations investigated his imprisonment and declared that it was wrong and that it was an unlawful imprisonment. And the FBI came to interrogate Awlaki when he was in prison and, you know, were trying to ask him questions about the 9/11 attacks, and effectively trying to convince him to shut his mouth.
So, Awlaki comes out of prison and starts a blog, and essentially becomes—and that’s why people often refer to Awlaki as like the YouTube imam or the Internet imam. You know, he comes out, and he starts pontificating on the state of affairs in the world, and he has a vibrant comments section in his website, and young Muslims around the world are asking him questions about different interpretations of the Qur’an or the hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad. And Awlaki becomes this sort of figure on the Internet. And his mosque was the Internet. And as the U.S. wars intensified, Awlaki’s rhetoric intensifies.
And really the turning point in this story was in 2009, when Major Nidal Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, on his fellow soldiers. He was an Army psychiatrist and gunned down more than a dozen of his fellow soldiers and wounded many, many others. And he, himself, was shot and paralyzed. It emerged, after Nidal Hasan did this massacre in 2009, that he had been in email contact with Anwar al-Awlaki.
AMY GOODMAN: In Yemen.
JEREMY SCAHILL: While Awlaki was in Yemen. And so, the story was floated in the media, and it continues to this day, that Awlaki helped to plan the Fort Hood shooting. There has never been a shred of evidence produced publicly that Awlaki had anything to do with the Fort Hood shooting before it happened.
What we now know, because the emails have been released, the communications between Awlaki and Nidal Hasan, that Nidal Hasan was sort of a pathetic man who was writing to Awlaki saying everything from—asking him everything from questions about the proper conduct of a Muslim in a military—one of them should have caught the eyes of investigators. He was asking Awlaki, basically, is it OK to shoot a fellow soldier if you think that they’re engaged in, you know, crime against Islam, you know, if they’re going to be going to another country? But he was putting it in the context of Israel and Palestine, and not sort of directly asking about himself. But he also asked Awlaki if he could help find him a wife. And then he tried to donate money to Awlaki and said, “I want to give a prize in your name for the best essay.”
AMY GOODMAN: But as you point out in your book, he actually had interaction with this man 10 years earlier.
JEREMY SCAHILL: So, Awlaki—so, in one of the emails, Nidal Hasan says, “You might not remember me, but I met you once at your mosque in Falls Church, Virginia.” And Awlaki didn’t remember him, but it turned out that Nidal Hasan’s parents were members of Awlaki’s mosque, and they had gone to Awlaki concerned about their son at one point, that he wasn’t—I don’t want to mischaracterize it, because I haven’t talked to the Hasan family. But in any case, they went to Awlaki, and they asked him for some guidance for their son, and so Awlaki had met him at one point, but it wasn’t—you know, he was the imam at a big mosque, and this would happen. And Awlaki said that, you know, he didn’t remember him.
Then, you know, the shooting happened, the discovery of the emails between Awlaki and Hasan comes out, U.S. intelligence reviewed them, said there was nothing to indicate that Awlaki had anything to do with it, yet the story still persisted in the media. Then the shooting happens, and Awlaki writes a blog post that says Nidal Hasan is a hero, and he praises the Fort Hood attack and says, “This should be a sort of a model for Muslims in the military going forward,” and essentially calls on other soldiers to do this. And that’s—he hit the tripwire there when he did that. And then it became a thing from being concerned about Awlaki’s speech and the idea that he would radicalize young people to actually praising this killing and calling on other Muslims in the U.S. military to do the same thing. The U.S. intelligence then got Awlaki’s blog shut down, and Awlaki started to be harassed by Yemeni intelligence, and he eventually went to his family’s province of Shabwa in southern Yemen to basically lay low.
And while Awlaki is there, he has numerous interactions with the U.S.-backed Yemeni intelligence. The Awlaki family is in communication with the U.S.-backed Yemeni dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh. And they’re saying to the Awlaki family, these U.S. proxies in Yemen, “Look, if you don’t get Anwar to come back to Sana’a, to the capital of Yemen, and we’re going to put him in prison here, the Americans are going to kill him. They’re going to kill him with a drone. So you have a choice: He can either live under the protection of our intelligence services in a prison, and we’ll treat him nicely until the Americans forget about him, or he can continue doing what he’s doing, running around in the mountains, and the Americans are going to kill him with a drone.” And they said this years before Awlaki was killed by a drone. And Anwar’s father, the last time that he talked to him, I believe, was in May of 2009. He went down to Shabwa, Nasser Aulaqi and his wife, and they tried to convince Anwar to come back, because they were concerned that the U.S. government was going to kill him. And their position was: You haven’t done anything that’s criminal, and if you have, then you should be able to face the evidence. And Awlaki said to his family, “I will not allow the Americans to tell me which way to position my butt at night. You know, I was born free, and I’m going to die free. And I’m not going to allow the Americans to do this.” And he said, “I’m going to continue to do what I believe is right.”
And that was the last conversation that Nasser Aulaqi had with his son, because in December of 2009, the U.S. started bombing Yemen for the first time in seven years. Bush had bombed Yemen once. It was a drone bombing in 2002, November, and ended up killing a U.S. citizen in that strike, though he wasn’t the target of the strike. So the first time that the U.S. did a targeted strike that killed a U.S. citizen in Yemen that we know of was under Bush in November of 2002. In December of 2009, President Obama authorizes a series of missile strikes, not just drone strikes. The most deadly one that we know of was December 17th, 2009, cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah, and it killed 46 people, three dozen of whom were women and children, which is stunning and horrifying. And we have video footage in our film of the aftermath of that strike, interviews with the survivors of when the missile hit. But it was in pursuit of one person that they said was an al-Qaeda operative, and they wiped out an entire Bedouin village. And we went there, and the cruise missile parts are still strewn across the desert. They’re there to this day just rusting out there. But the U.S. also used—
AMY GOODMAN: How many people were killed?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Forty-six people were killed, and I think 35 or 36 of them were women and children. And I was leaked the official parliamentary investigation in Yemen with the names and ages of all of the dead. And I have it—I have it stained in my head, the images that I’ve seen of the videos that people I met there had taken on the scene. You know, one tribal leader, Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, who’s the head of the Awlak tribe in Yemen, he went there right after the attack. And he said to me, “If someone had weak heart, they would collapse, because you saw meat, and you couldn’t tell if it was goat meat or human meat. And you saw limbs of children.” And he, himself—and he’s this older man—actually found body parts and helped to bury—try to bury people with dignity. And he’s this incredibly wealthy man who went there himself and is the main reason why there still is agitation for justice for the victims of the Majalah bombing, that—because these tribal leaders have said, “We will not forget what you did to this village of nobodies, one of the poorest tribes in all of Yemen.”
Who knows why the U.S. bombed it? It could have been that the Yemeni government was under pressure from Obama’s administration, and they said, “No one will care about these people. Let’s just say this is an al-Qaeda camp, because it’s in the middle of nowhere. No one is going to care about them, and no one’s going to go there to investigate.” But when we went there, we saw it. The cluster bombs, these are flying land mines, they’re banned. And yet the United States continues to use them, and they shred people into meat. I saw it in Yugoslavia in the ’90s, and I’ve seen it again now in Yemen.
AMY GOODMAN: So the weapons used were?
JEREMY SCAHILL: The weapons used? They used a Tomahawk cruise missile, and they used cluster bombs. And the cluster bombs are—they are like flying land mines. And they drop in these parachutes, and they explode, and they can shred people. I mean, it’s their—they’re probably the most horrifying weapon I have ever seen the aftermath of in a war zone.
So, this is the first strike that President Obama authorizes, and it’s unclear who the real target even was. They claimed it was this one man and that he was killed. When I talked to people in Yemen, they said, “That guy is old—that guy is—yeah, he was a mujahideen in Afghanistan, but he had nothing to do with the leadership.”
AMY GOODMAN: Mujahideen, who the U.S. worked with.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Who the U.S. worked with, right. You know, Yemenis went to Afghanistan in the ’80s in huge numbers. And, you know, they have a very serious fighting spirit, and there were a lot of Yemenis that had gone there and fought on the same side as the United States. But the point I’m getting at here is that—so, the Obama administration starts to intensify this bombing in Yemen. They bomb al-Majalah. And then, seven days later, they—but remember that the Yemeni government claimed responsibility for the strike, and Obama’s administration released a statement praising Yemen for this attack. Yemen doesn’t have cruise missiles. Yemen doesn’t have cluster bombs.
So, but for, you know, some brave local journalists going there and photographing it initially, we probably would—never would have been able to prove that it was a U.S. strike. And we could talk about him later, but Obama, President Obama, is directly responsible for the first Yemeni journalist to report on this story, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, continuing to be in prison. He was arrested after he exposed the Majalah bombing, and he remains in prison to this day. In fact, the last line in my book is to say that he’s still in prison, and he should be set free. This was a journalist that had worked with major U.S. media outlets, broke this huge story that the U.S. had bombed Yemen for the first time in seven years, using cluster bombs, and then he ends up in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges, put on trial in a court that was set up specifically to prosecute journalists, and then when he was going to be pardoned, President Obama called Ali Abdullah Saleh and said, “We don’t want him released,” and he remains in prison to this day. So, he was the first journalist to do that. He’s in prison.
Seven days after that bombing, the Yemeni government puts out a press release saying they’ve conducted these air strikes in Shabwa and Abyan province and that among the dead is Wuhayshi and Shihri, the two heads of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Anwar al-Awlaki. So the first time that we know of that the U.S. intended to kill Anwar al-Awlaki was in December of 2009. This is before we understood that he had actually been officially put on the kill list. We didn’t find out about that until two months later. So, this first strike, Yemeni government takes responsibility, but in fact it was a U.S. strike. Then Awlaki knows that they’re trying to get him. Drones start appearing all throughout Yemen. There hadn’t been drone strikes in Yemen since 2002. So drones start appearing over Shabwa and over Abyan, and people start seeing them, and there’s an intensification of these attacks.
Then, in January of 2010, a story leaks to The New York — to The Washington Post that there are a number of U.S. citizens that have been put on the kill list that’s maintained by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, and that among these, most prominently, is Anwar al-Awlaki. And after the Post published that story, they had to run a correction, because the CIA got in touch with the Post and said that we don’t have Americans on our kill list. So then they had to clarify that it was the Joint Special Operations Command, and then, in fact, there were two separate kill lists. So, once Awlaki knew that he was a target, he went totally underground and spent the remaining two years of his life on the run.
And his father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, wrote a letter to President Obama begging him not to kill his son and saying, “We could—there’s another way to resolve this. And if there’s evidence that my son is involved with any criminal activity, make it public.” And the head of the Awlak tribe said, “If Anwar is guilty of anything, we’ll execute him ourselves. But we want to see the evidence, because we don’t think that the United States has the right to simply say someone should be given the death penalty without ever giving them a trial.”
And, I mean, they understood something that barely registered a blip on the radar of the U.S. Congress. When they—when we learned that Awlaki was on the kill list, Congressman Dennis Kucinich put forward a bill that simply stated—didn’t even mention Awlaki—that Americans have the right to due process and that the government does not have a right to execute or assassinate American citizens without having tried them or presented evidence. And only six members of Congress signed onto it with Dennis Kucinich, and no senators, which is interesting because then years later, Rand Paul does this filibuster, and all these tea party and Republican people are all up in arms about, you know, “Is President Obama going to hunt them down and kill them in the United States?” when at the time none of them ever said—none of them said anything about it. It was basically just Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, who at the time was waging an insurgent campaign for the Republican nomination for president, that said anything about this. And, you know, so it’s sort of how times change.
So, Awlaki is on the run, and the U.S., by my count, tried to kill him more than a dozen times. And I write in the book about one incident in May of 2011 where Awlaki very nearly was killed. He was in Shabwa. He was driving in a two-car convoy. And the U.S. had drones and other special ops aircraft, and they were doing this sort of bee swarm on him to try to get him. And they—there was a misfire, and the drone—the drone missed Awlaki’s vehicle. And they were driving in a car, in a vehicle that had gasoline canisters, which is common in a lot of countries where there’s not just gas stations everywhere you travel. So if it had hit it, it would have just, you know, blown. So Awlaki and his cohorts believed that they’re being ambushed. They don’t know that it’s a drone strike. They feel an explosion; they think someone maybe has launched anRPG at them. So they try to do some evasive maneuvers. Meanwhile, the U.S. aircraft are circling back around, and they shoot—they fire another missile, and it misses again. And now there’s this huge dust up. Awlaki calls for backup.
These two brothers, the Harad brothers, come to the rescue. And there’s—they’re in the—there’s a chaotic scene. There’s all of this smoke and clouds. And the Harad brothers get into Awlaki’s truck, Awlaki gets into their Suzuki, and then they—it’s something like out of—out of like, you know, some Hollywood movie. They drive in opposite directions away from the smoke. And I talked to a JSOC planner who saw the after action reports. He said, “We only had the top-down imagery. It looks like ants. So we didn’t know.” And they had to make a decision which truck to follow. So they follow the original one, and they blow that one up. But, of course, Awlaki wasn’t in it, and Awlaki watched his car with the two brothers in it blow up while he was on a sort of cliff in the mountains. And then he slept overnight there, and then he made his way to the home of a friend of his. And he said that night, you know, that he counted 11 missiles, and he said they all missed their target, but the next one could be a direct hit.
And sure enough, in—on September 30th, 2011, just a few months later, Awlaki was in Jawf province in the north of Yemen, which was interesting because the U.S. always was looking for him in the south, and he and another American, Samir Khan, who is widely believed to have been the editor of Inspire magazine, the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula magazine, were getting into their car and driving, and then the U.S. launched a drone strike and killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in one strike. And U.S. officials said that Samir Khan wasn’t a target, but one congressman said it was a “two-fer,” you know, that they got both of them at the same time. And I talked to the Khan family also, Samir Khan’s family. They’re from North Carolina, Pakistani Americans. And they said that the FBI had met with them repeatedly and said that Samir is not—hasn’t committed any crimes. A grand jury did not return an indictment against him. And they were trying to encourage the family to get him to come home. So this U.S. citizen, whose family had been told he hadn’t done anything criminal that they knew of, was actually killed that day with Anwar al-Awlaki.
AMY GOODMAN: War correspondent Jeremy Scahill on his new book, out today, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. We’ll continue our conversation in a minute.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: “Lives in the Balance,” sung by Richie Havens, who died on Monday at the age of 72. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with The Nation correspondent,Democracy Now! correspondent, premier war correspondent Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. We turn now to President Obama speaking September 30th, 2011, announcing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The death of Awlaki is a major blow to al-Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate. Awlaki was the leader of external operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans. He directed the failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009. He directed the failed attempt to blow up U.S. cargo planes in 2010. And he repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to President Obama, Jeremy Scahill?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, I think one of the things that we have to understand about Anwar al-Awlaki is that no evidence was ever presented that he played an operational role in any of these attacks. I’m not saying that I know that he didn’t. Maybe he did. But under our legal system, American citizens should have a right to respond to the evidence presented against them. And Awlaki was never afforded that. Nidal Hasan is getting a trial. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is in the justice system having, you know, something resembling a trial. John Walker Lindh was given access to the U.S. legal system and had—and if he had wanted to not take a plea agreement, he could have fought the charges against him in court. Anwar al-Awlaki, though, was sentenced to death by a president who served as judge, jury and ultimately as executioner, and also prosecutor in public. They litigated Anwar al-Awlaki’s death penalty case with leaks to the media. They never gave him a chance to respond to it.
So, I don’t know what his role was in the so-called underwear bomber, the Abdulmutallab case. I know from my own reporting on the ground in Yemen that Awlaki had met with [Umar] Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was a very, I think, deranged young man, this Nigerian who came and tried to bring down this airliner. But it cuts to the heart of something else interesting: Was Anwar al-Awlaki a member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula? He never claimed it himself. He referred to them as his brothers. And Nasser Aulaqi said, “I know my son, and if he had been a member of that organization, he would have said, ’I’m a member of that organization.’” My sense, on the ground, is that Awlaki was around those circles, that they respected him as someone who was definitely preaching things that were in sync with their agenda. But when leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula tried to get Osama bin Laden to name Awlaki as the head of AQAP, bin Laden basically said, “We need to see his résumé. He’s untested. I don’t—I mean, I know who this guy is, but I don’t know anything about him. So, you keep—you’re still the head of the organization. Don’t try to—don’t try to bring this to me until he’s tested on the battlefield.” So my response to President Obama is, if all of this is true, what would the harm be in presenting that evidence to the American people or having presented that evidence to Anwar al-Awlaki? Why—
AMY GOODMAN: That he couldn’t get him.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Why not seek an indictment against him?
AMY GOODMAN: That he couldn’t get him. That would be Obama’s, perhaps, his response.
JEREMY SCAHILL: But why not seek an indictment against Anwar al-Awlaki, if he’s guilty of all of these things, and then demand his extradition? And if Yemen is not going to extradite him, then you could have sent in a team of Navy SEALs to snatch him. Or you could have, I mean, probably had a much easier time justifying his killing if you actually had presented evidence against him. That title that Obama bestowed on Anwar Awlaki, no one—I talked to—no one had ever heard of that before, that Awlaki was the head of external operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. If Awlaki was anything within al-Qaeda, he would have been very low-level management. We in the United States get obsessed withInspire magazine and Anwar al-Awlaki because they’re speaking in English, and so we can get scared of their words because they’re in English. If you read in Arabic what has been produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and you study who is important in that organization, Anwar al-Awlaki is a nobody, in terms of the actual Arabic-speaking jihadist population that is sort of in the circle of AQAP. He was someone that was convenient because he was preaching in English to a wider audience.
AMY GOODMAN: You quoted a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst about his role, about Awlaki’s role.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, just saying that, you know, he’s mid-level management and that he—that he doesn’t do—he wouldn’t do anything without them telling him what to do. He’s not a decider. He’s not making those decisions.
AMY GOODMAN: So, September 30th, 2011, Awlaki is killed in a drone attack along with another American citizen, Samir Khan.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Then talk about what happened two weeks later.
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. So, around the time a little bit before Anwar Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed, Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, who was living with his grandparents and his mother in their house in Sana’a, he had just turned 16, and one morning he went into his mother’s purse before anyone had gotten up, and he took the equivalent of $40 out of her purse and left a small note saying, you know, “Please forgive me. I miss my father, and I want to go and try to find him. I’m sorry that I took the money, and I’ll pay it back.” And then he climbed out the kitchen window. And I went into their house and saw his bedroom, and I saw the kitchen, and I sort of recreated what had happened. And he jumped out their kitchen window, and the security guard in their family compound saw him leaving early in the morning and didn’t think much of it at all. And so he goes to Babel Yemen, in the old city in Sana’a, and he gets on a bus, and he goes to Shabwa, where he believes his father is.
AMY GOODMAN: Hasn’t seen him for a few years.
JEREMY SCAHILL: And hasn’t—hadn’t seen him since 2009. And, you know, this was a kid who was born in Denver, Colorado, and grew up—I mean, I saw these videos of Anwar teaching his son how to ride a horse and playing at the beach with him. And, I mean, the Awlakis showed me their family home movies. And this kid clearly adored his father. And then, you know, his dad becomes this outlaw and is on the run. And he’s sort of coming of age and decides that he wants to go and find his father. And so he takes a bus to Shabwa, where they have family, and was going to wait there and try to connect with his father.
Anwar al-Awlaki’s mother, Saleha, told me that she was in a panic when she found out that he had left, because she thought that it was possible that the CIA was trying to use Abdulrahman to find his father, that they could have been tracking him via text messages if he had been involved, you know, with finding his dad or emails and that they were being monitored. In fact, when we went to the Awlaki home in Sana’a the first time to film with them, Rick Rowley, the director of the film, couldn’t find an open frequency on the—on our recording system, because all of the radio waves were being used, so they’re just being monitored intensely by all sorts of intelligence agencies. So, you know, I know that every member of that family was being watched in some way or another by intelligence.
So, Abdulrahman Awlaki goes to Shabwa to wait for his father. And when he’s there, his father is killed and—nowhere near Shabwa. He’s killed in the north of Yemen. And then he calls back to speak to his grandparents, and his grandmother, you know, said, “Abdulrahman, it’s finished. Your father is dead. You have to come home.” And at the time, it was the—you know, the so-called Arab Spring. These uprisings were happening, and it was happening in Yemen, too. The roads were all blocked, so he had to stay in Shabwa for a couple of weeks while he waited for things to calm down so he could safely travel back to Sana’a, which is a treacherous sort of stretch of territory where there’s a lot of fighting. And, you know, he’s depressed, and his family members there are encouraging him to get out and to go out into the world and do stuff, and so he goes with his teenage cousins to an outdoor restaurant to eat, and they’re there on the night of October 14th when a drone appears above them and launches a missile and blows up 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki and his teenage cousins.
And, you know, Nasser Aulaqi, Anwar’s father, loses his firstborn son, and then, two weeks later, his eldest grandson is killed. And he said that when they got the phone call the next day, that their relatives in Shabwa told them that they—that they couldn’t identify the bodies completely because they were all shredded and blown up to pieces and that they only could find part of Abdulrahman’s head. And they knew it was him because he had this very distinct afro. He had this very large head of hair that his family had always—his mom and grandparents were saying, “Cut your hair,” and he was a rebellious teenager. And, you know, on his Facebook page, which, you know, the family gave me all of his Facebook posts, this was a kid who was into hip-hop music, who had lots of pictures posing as a rapper with his friends, was into video games; when the revolution was happening in Yemen, would go to the Change Square to hang out and was a part of the—wanted to be a part of that change in his country. And he was killed in this drone strike. And the U.S., to this day, has never publicly said who they were going after in that drone strike.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser al-Aulaqi, the grandfather of Abdulrahman. In this video, made for the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, he spoke about the U.S. killing of his 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
NASSER AL-AULAQI: I want Americans to know about my grandson, that he was very nice boy. He was very caring boy for his family, for his mother, for his brothers. He was born in August 1995 in the state of Colorado, city of Denver. He was raised in America, when he was a child until he was seven years old. And I never thought that one day this boy, this nice boy, will be killed by his own government.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Nasser al-Aulaqi, the grandfather of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Jeremy Scahill?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. So, after he was killed, the story that we all know in the public now is that U.S. officials leaked stories to the press saying that he was 21 years old. He wasn’t; he had just turned 16, and we have the birth certificate to prove that. He was born in Colorado in 1995. Then they said that he had been with Ibrahim al-Banna, who is an Egyptian member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And the dominant story that’s been floated is that the U.S. was trying to kill al-Banna and that Abdulrahman Awlaki just happened to be next to him, which is an incredible coincidence that this 16-year-old kid, whose father was killed two weeks earlier in a targeted assassination by the U.S. government, is then killed himself while in the company of another member of AQAP. The CIA said that al-Banna wasn’t even on their target list, so opening up the speculation that it was a unilateral JSOC operation, Joint Special Operations Command operation. When I spoke to—I spoke to a JSOC guy who was in Yemen at the time working on that strike, and he wouldn’t tell me any of the details, but he said, “The guy we were trying to get, we didn’t get.” And I said, “Well, what—how did you feel when you saw that this teenage American citizen had been killed?” And he goes, “Well, there’s a reason I’m not doing this anymore.” And so, we don’t know who it was. Was Ibrahim al-Banna there? If he was, AQAP says he’s very much alive, and that it was lies that he was killed, if that’s the claim.
Then the U.S. said, “Well, it was an outrageous mistake.” This is all anonymous, though. They’ll never—they’ll never talk about it. President Obama has never been asked about the killing of this teenager. My new reporting, though, that I did very recently, suggests that there—this was a great controversy within the White House. I understand from a former senior official of the administration who worked on this program at the time that when it became clear that Abdulrahman Awlaki had been killed, that President Obama was furious and that John Brennan, who at the time was the president’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, the guy running all of these operations, that Brennan believed or suspected that it was an intentional hit against Anwar Awlaki’s son, this 16-year-old kid, and ordered a review. And I asked this former senior official what happened with the review, and he said, “I don’t know.” And then when I got in touch with the White House recently and I exchanged a series of emails with the National Security Council spokesperson, she told me that she wouldn’t discuss any of the specifics about this and said that they’re not going to talk about operational details or any of the reviews, and then pasted a boilerplate response about drone strikes into the email.
But then, when I asked this former senior official, “So, if the narrative on this is that it was a mistake, then why didn’t you say that? Why didn’t you say, you know, this 16-year-old U.S. citizen was killed as collateral damage, or, you know, we were intending to get someone else, and we didn’t do it?” And he said, “Look, we had just killed three U.S. citizens in a two-week period, two of whom weren’t even targets—Samir Khan and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. It doesn’t look good. It’s embarrassing.” That’s what this official said to me. So, what my understanding is now is that they killed these three U.S. citizens, two of whom weren’t targets, one of whom was a 16-year-old kid whose Facebook page you can look at online and photos you can look at online and see what kind of a person he was, and the best thing to come up with is: “We haven’t said anything to his family because it was embarrassing for us politically.” And that says a lot about where we’re at with these drone strikes.
I also think it’s possible that Abdulrahman Awlaki was killed in what’s called a signature strike, which, to me, is the most egregious part of the whole drone program. Because the United States doesn’t have any actual intelligence on the ground in Yemen, they’ve taken to doing these signature strikes where they develop a pattern of life, and they say, if people are in a certain region of Yemen or Pakistan or Somalia—if people are in a certain region and they’re of military age—they could be anywhere from 15 to 70 years old—and they fit some kind of a pattern of other people we believe to be terrorists, then they become legitimate targets. So it’s the most horrific form of pre-crime. They don’t know the identities of the people that they’re killing. They don’t know whether they’ve been involved with any activity. They’re killed for who they might be or they might one day become. And so, for whatever reason Abdulrahman Awlaki was killed that day, the message that was sent is that the U.S. will operate with impunity in pursuit of a small number of people, and even U.S. citizens can be killed, with no explanation as to why, by their own government.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me play the clip of Attorney General Eric Holder, who offered the Obama administration’s most spirited defense of its policy authorizing the assassination of U.S. citizens abroad, speaking last March at Chicago’s Northwestern University.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: It is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats that we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad. Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make—does not make such individuals immune from being targeted.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Attorney General Eric Holder. Jeremy Scahill?
JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, I mean, I also—I want to—I mean, we’ve talked a lot about U.S. citizens, but I also feel it’s necessary to point out that the vast majority of the people being killed in these operations are not in fact U.S. citizens, they’re Pakistanis, they’re Yemenis, they’re Somalis and, you know, others. I mean, I think it’s ironic that you have a president that is a constitutional law expert and that you have, you know, this attorney general who was very well respected in the field of law coming forward to put together the defense of the—a defense of the stripping of the most basic rights in our Constitution. I mean, the idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a—we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country. The idea that you don’t give people the chance to respond to charges against them or to see the evidence against them should be shocking to all Americans.
When Anwar Awlaki’s father tried to file a lawsuit before his son was killed, before Anwar Awlaki was killed, challenging the government’s right to assassinate him, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary Gates, DNI—Director of National Intelligence James Clapper all submitted briefs to the court saying that if the evidence was to be made public, it would threaten the security of the United States, and they hid behind the state secrets privilege. So their response to a U.S. citizen’s petition to understand why they were put on the kill list was to say, “We have evidence, but it’s too secret to—it’s too sensitive to be made public.” And that’s essentially what it’s come down to.
And, you know, I’m a believer in societies being defined by how they treat the least of their people or their most reprehensible members of their society. Anwar Awlaki said things that I find utterly despicable and disgraceful, and I think that there probably would have been grounds to charge him with some form of a—with some kind of a crime. His lawyers have never contended he’s an innocent man or he’s this noble figure that should be held up. He called for the killing of cartoonists who had drawn the Prophet Muhammad, listed specific names of people. He did things that are offensive to me and should be offensive to all humans. But that’s not—but that, itself, is not a death penalty case. You know, you have to look at how you treat people that you despise and what access do you give them and what rights do you give them in a society. That defines who you are, just like when a president is in power who you support, or maybe you voted for, or you think is a great guy, your principles are tested by where you stand when they’re doing things or implementing policies that you would have opposed if the other guy had won. And so, you know, we have a crisis of conscience right now in our country also, where people are—it’s like, you know, partisan lemmings just going off the cliff. If McCain had won that election, there’s no way that you’d see polls—70 percent of liberals supporting drone strikes. No way. Obama has sold liberals a bill of goods and has convinced them that this is a smarter, cleaner way to wage wars. And it’s just not.
AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. Tomorrow we’ll play highlights from today’s first-ever Senate drone hearing and air part two of my interview with Jeremy on secret U.S. operations across the globe, including Somalia and Pakistan.
You can visit our website to read an excerpt of Jeremy’s book, Dirty Wars.
On Saturday, I’ll be moderating a discussion with Jeremy and Noam Chomsky at Harvard University’s Science Center in Cambridge at 2:00 p.m.
Finally, Democracy Now! is hiring an online giving manager. Apply if you’re passionate about funding independent media and have experience with online fundraising and database management. Find out more at democracynow.org.

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New US drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen

By Patrick O’Connor
January 04, 2013 “Information Clearing House” – Marking the first US drone attacks of 2013, the Obama administration ordered two separate missile bombardments in Pakistan and Yemen on Wednesday and Thursday.
The latest attacks demonstrate that the drawdown of US-led occupying forces in Afghanistan will be accompanied by an expansion of illegal drone operations across the Middle East. At least 16 people were reported killed, all alleged Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, though details of each incident are still emerging and Washington routinely covers up the killing of civilians in drone strikes.
On Wednesday night, approximately 10:40 pm local time, Pakistani Taliban leader Maulvi Nazir, also known as Mullah Nazir, was among several people killed in South Waziristan, the tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Nazir is among the most prominent figures to have been assassinated in recent years, having led one of the four Taliban factions in the Waziristan region.
Different reports that have emerged since the strike claim that Nazir was killed by at least two missiles fired either at a vehicle in which he was travelling near Wana, the largest town in South Waziristan, or at a house near Wana. Reports differ on how many other people were killed, with some sources suggesting eight or nine additional casualties.
Unnamed Pakistani officials were cited confirming that Nazir’s senior deputies, Atta Ullah and Rafey Khan, were among the dead. These sources also claimed the others killed were Nazir’s Taliban associates. Thousands reportedly attended the funerals of the men, and markets and shops closed in those parts of South Waziristan that Nazir controlled.
Yesterday, another two drone missiles struck North Waziristan, killing four more alleged Taliban militants, reportedly including two Uzbek nationals, as they were travelling in a car. Multiple sources report that a second round of drone missiles was fired when people nearby attempted to recover the bodies, though it is not known if more people were killed or injured as a result.
On the same day as the atrocity in North Waziristan, three alleged members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were killed while travelling in a car in Redaa, in the southern Yemeni province of Al Bayda. Redaa is where a US drone strike killed 11 civilians, including three children, on September 2.
Reuters cited a Yemeni government official as claiming that a Yemeni aircraft carried out the latest strike in Redaa, but local people who saw the US drone responsible contradicted him. Washington has ordered a series of drone attacks in Yemen in recent days, enjoying the full support of its stooge, President Mansour Al Hadi. (See “US drone strikes continue in Yemen” .)
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little spoke with reporters off camera yesterday about the drone strike that killed Maulvi Nazir. Without explicitly acknowledging US responsibility, he declared: “If the reports are true, this would be a significant blow and would be very helpful, not just to the United States but also to our Pakistani partners and the Afghans… This is someone who had a great deal of blood on his hands.”
President Barack Obama in fact bears responsibility for the continued bloodletting in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. While Washington is currently in a de facto alliance with Al Qaeda-connected militia groups fighting against the Syrian government, the so-called “war on terror” remains the pretext for its military operations across the Middle East.
The New York Times reported in November that drone strikes are estimated to have killed at least 2,500 people. This is likely a significant underestimation.
The British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has calculated that by August 2011, 2,347 people had been killed by drone attacks in Pakistan alone. The total included at least 392 civilians, 175 of them children. The Obama administration refuses to tally civilian deaths, arbitrarily labelling all males within a drone target area as “combatants” unless there is evidence proving otherwise.
Maulvi Nazir headed one of the Pakistani Taliban factions that had reached an agreement with the Pakistani military, with both sides pledging that their forces would not target one another. Nazir was allied with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, leader of another militia in North Waziristan who had also signed a peace pact with the Pakistani military.
Some Pakistani army commanders labelled the two figures “good Taliban.” Nazir funnelled fighters across the Afghan border to participate in operations against the US-NATO occupying forces and also allegedly sheltered members of various Al Qaeda-affiliated groups, while at the same time cooperating with the Pakistani military. He collaborated with the army’s 2009 offensive against rival Taliban factions, which the government in Islamabad launched under intense pressure from the Obama administration.
Nazir had been targeted by rival Islamist militia leaders who have launched attacks against Pakistani military and government targets. In November, he narrowly survived a suicide bomb attack that was reportedly organised by the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP).
The London Telegraph ’s Rob Crilly noted: “This could well herald a new time of instability as other militant factions try to vie for control… There is also a question of what this means for US-Pakistan relations. Mullah Nazir was very much an American target who, I suspect, Pakistan would have been happy to leave alone, so there is a question mark over what this means.”
The Pakistani government, dependent on US military and financial aid, publicly opposes the drone strikes as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, while privately permitting Washington to proceed. It is unclear whether any government or military figures in Islamabad were consulted before Nazir’s assassination, but the Obama administration has made clear that irrespective of any considerations of international law, it claims the right to murder anyone, including American citizens, anywhere on the planet.
Copyright © 1998-2012 World Socialist Web Site
See also – Must watch video – Propaganda : North Korean Documentary Exposes Western Propaganda

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US drone strikes continue in Yemen

By Will Morrow 
3 January 2013
Two US drone strikes in Yemen on December 24 killed six people and wounded at least three others, according to an Associated Press report. A missile struck a vehicle travelling in the central Bayda province carrying two men—one Yemeni and one Jordanian. The same day, three missiles killed four men travelling on motorbikes in Hadhramaut province.
While unnamed Yemeni officials claimed that all six victims were members of the local Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), only one has been identified. Yemeni and US officials, along with the international media, routinely label civilians and government opponents killed in drone strikes as AQAP “militants.”
During 2012, the Obama administration escalated its drone campaign in Yemen, which is aimed at maintaining US dominance in the strategic region and propping up the loyal and widely-despised regime of President Mansour Al Hadi. His government confronts armed tribal groups in the north and south of the country.
Under its policy of “signature strikes,” adopted in April, the Obama administration has blown up buildings, vehicles and people without even identifying who is being targeted—based solely on so-called activity patterns from satellites and spies. Under the guise of the “war on terror,” these attacks are carried out without public oversight, making it impossible to know the actual number of civilian casualties.
The recent strikes are the first since November. According to the Long War Journalonline blog, which tracks media reports of US military strikes, there were at least 40 drone attacks in 2012—a four-fold increase from 2011. Analysing separate data compiled by the New America Foundation, AFP counted 53 strikes in 2012.
The real figure is likely to be far higher. The Yemeni government claims that its aged air force carries out every bombing, so confirmation of US drone attacks can often only be made by witnesses. The Obama administration refuses to officially acknowledge the drone war in Yemen. At least 35 civilians have been killed in the attacks in the last 12 months, according to the Long War Journal, but the toll is certain to be greater.
In a rare admission, unnamed US officials confirmed to the Washington Post late last month that a drone had blown up a truck carrying 14 civilians on September 2. Thirteen people, including a woman and two children (7 and 12 years old) were killed, in one of the deadliest strikes since the December 2009 cruise missile attack that killed dozens of civilians.
The Yemeni government had previously claimed responsibility for the September 2 strike, labelling the civilians as AQAP “militants.” According to the Post, the villagers were travelling to Radda to sell Khat, a narcotic leaf chewed by many people in Yemen, when a missile explosion flipped the truck over. Seconds later, a second missile struck. Friends and relatives of the deceased attempted to carry their bodies to a government office in protest, but were blocked by security forces. The government was then forced to admit that civilians had been killed.
Since coming to power last February, Hadi has sought to prove himself an even more reliable US stooge than former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Hadi became president when Saleh stepped down as part of a deal organised by the US and its allies to salvage the regime and shut down mass demonstrations. At the same time, the former opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) and anti-government defectors within the tribal and military elite were incorporated into the regime.
Unlike Saleh, who denied that US drone strikes took place in the country, Hadi gave an interview with the Washington Post in September praising their use and insisting that he personally authorised every strike. The Post noted that Hadi “has come to be regarded by Obama administration officials as one of the United States’ staunchest counterterrorism allies.”
The US provided at least $112 million in military aid last year, approximately the same amount that had been given to the Saleh regime over the entire decade from 2001. Last month, Washington announced it would donate 25 small manned surveillance planes, which will be piloted by Yemenis trained by US troops. The Pentagon and CIA have an unknown number of personnel in Yemen, directing drone strikes and Yemeni military operations. Significantly, Defence Tech, a military analysis web site closely linked to the US army, reported in September that Yemeni officials claimed the government expected to receive four Raven drones of its own from the US.
Widespread hostility toward Hadi’s regime continues. While media reporting is scant, for the past two Fridays, hundreds of thousands of people joined protests following prayers in Sanaa and other cities. They called for the removal and trial of members of the security forces and the Saleh regime, including Saleh himself, who continues to wield significant political power.
In an attempt to appease the public opposition, Hadi announced a restructuring of the military on December 19, removing at least 10 military and security officials from their posts, including Saleh’s son, who headed the Central Security forces. Hadi also disbanded a military division that had attempted to overthrow the government during the protests in 2011, and removed its commander, General Ali Mohsen. Nine soldiers from a military division that defected to the opposition were placed on trial this month and given seven-year jail terms.
Far from being punished for killing protesters last year, however, the former heads of the security forces, including Saleh’s son and Ali Mohsen, are likely to be given new positions in the defence ministry or military. The military restructuring is aimed, above all, at uniting the different factions of the security and military apparatus, including those directly connected to Saleh through his family network, in order to better meet US needs and ruthlessly suppress any internal opposition in the future. For this reason, the Obama administration has given the reorganisation its full support.

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Unrestrained Savagery

In Yemen, Al Qaeda bombs a funeral of someone it killed days earlier. How can Terrorist monsters do this?
By Glenn Greenwald
August 07, 2012 “Salon” —- Every American national security official will tell you that the most dangerous and savage Al Qaeda branch is the one in Yemen, and that group certainly supplied evidence for this claim with this heinous act over the weekend:
The death toll from a suicide bombing in southern Yemen rose to 45 on Sunday, officials said, in the latest attack against militias allied with the army.
The bomber, suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda, struck late Saturday during a funeral serviceattended by members of civilian militias that helped the Yemeni Army in a campaign to recapture the town of Jaar from Qaeda militants in June. . . . Yemen’s state news service, Saba, said [] most of the victims were members of the civilian militias allied with the army.
AP noted that this underscores why “the United States considers the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda to be the most dangerous in the terrorist network,” while Reuters said that the funeral attack “highlighted the enduring threat of Islamist militancy in Yemen and may alarm the United States and Saudi Arabia.” The provincial Yemeni governor denounced the funeral bombing as “a cowardly, criminal, terrorist attack.”
Indeed, it’s difficult even to fathom the depth of the cold-blooded savagery — the total disregard for all minimal concepts of humanity — needed for Terrorist monsters to bomb funerals. Al Qaeda has used this same tactic in Iraq; in September of last year, “a car bomb exploded near the Prophet Ayoub Mosque, where a funeral service was being held, killing 25 and injuring 37 others,” and “provincial officials accused al-Qaeda of carrying out the attack. ‘Al-Qaeda carried out one of the ugliest terrorist attacks in the province, killing civilians and children without any reason,’ said Maj. Gen. Fadhil Raddad.” The Assad regime this year has also has employed this Terror tactic against Syrian rebels:
At least 85 people were killed when a car bomb exploded during a funeral procession Saturday evening in the Syrian town of Zamalka, activists and human rights groups said.
People had gathered to honor a resident of the town near Damascus who had been killed earlier in the day, said Abu Omar, an activist in Zamalka who attended the funeral. The resident, Abdul Hadi Halabi, had been killed by gunfire when government forces briefly entered the town from their checkpoints . . . . The antigovernment Local Coordination Committees put the number of dead at 85. . . .Though protests and funeral processions have been attacked with gunfire and shelling, activists said it was the first time they could recall a bomb targeting such a gathering.
When the Obama DOJ last year announced its indictment on Terror charges of the domestic Hutaree militia (an indictment that was ultimately dismissed), this was one of the plots they highlighted to convey just how evil and menacing this group is:
“Captain Hutaree,” his wife and two sons planned with other militia members to kill a law enforcement official to draw the officer’s colleagues to the funeral, authorities say. Then, according to an indictment unsealed Monday, the militia planned to attack the funeral procession to kick off its war against the U.S. government.
The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.
The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a “targeted, focused effort” that “has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties”. . . .
A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.
With almost no public notice taken, The New York Times, on June 23, 2009, described one illustrative incident in Pakistan:
An airstrike believed to have been carried out by a United States drone killed at least 60 people at a funeralfor a Taliban fighter in South Waziristan on Tuesday, residents of the area and local news reports said.
Details of the attack, which occurred in Makeen, remained unclear, but the reported death toll was exceptionally high.
The “exceptionally high” death toll for those funeral attendees included “as many as 45 were civilians, among them reportedly ten children and four tribal leaders.” This year, on a three-day weekend in late June, the U.S. launched a series of drone attacks in Pakistan — one on each day — and the second strike targeted mourners gathered to grieve those killed in the first strike (“At the time of the attack, suspected militants had gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another US unmanned drone attack on Saturday”).
Whatever one thinks of all this, I hope that nobody will even think about comparing, let alone equating, these acts. Such a comparison would be disgusting. As Rudy Giuliani taught us when asked during his 2008 presidential bid whether waterboarding was torture: “It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it.”
Regardless of where one falls on the ideological spectrum, we must all join together to condemn the sin of moral relativism: therefore, the same act that is the hallmark of repulsive savagery when done by Al Qaeda, Assad, and the Hutaree militia is transformed into a moral and noble act when done by the Government of the United States of America. As U.S. political discourse has long taught, the crime of “moral relativism” is committed by holding everyone to the same standards – that’s “moral relativism.” One can avoid that pitfall only by exempting oneself and one’s own country from the moral dictates one imposes on everyone else.
* * * * *
On a different note: the author and former CIA officer Barry Eisler wrote an amazingly interesting and insightful analysisin reaction to my interview last week with Chris Hayes. I don’t agree with all of the points he makes (at least not entirely as he applies them to Hayes), but it’s a very provocative and smart assessment of the process of cooption and is well worth reading.
UPDATE: Evidently undeterred by last year’s Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment guarantees the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at funerals, President Obama yesterday signed a new law “enacting new restrictions on protests of service member funerals,” hailing his own act as the fulfillment of a “moral sacred duty.” Apparently, holding a protest outside of a funeral is a moral atrocity, but bombing a funeral and killing the mourners in attendance is a noble act in defending freedom.
Update
Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012 05:40 AM PDT
this article seems to paint a monochromatic view of whats going on in Syria. From what i have read, the rebels are by far committing the greater atrocities with the west’s material and moral support.
I did not say or imply anything about that at all. I simply referred to a single incident where it seems the Assad regime used the tactic of bombing a funeral. My pointing to that incident says nothing whatsoever about the behavior of the rebels or which side is committing the most/worst atrocities.
Copyright © 2012 Salon Media Group, Inc

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US drone strikes kill civilians in Yemen

By Bill Van Auken 

17 May 2012
Missile strikes by US drones claimed the lives of at least a dozen civilians in Yemen’s southern Abyan province Tuesday, as Washington escalated its military intervention in the impoverished Arab country.
The attack took place in the town of Ja’ar, which together with the provincial capital of Zinjibar and several other towns was seized by Islamist insurgents during the protracted popular uprising against the US-backed regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was forced to relinquish his post last February.
Saleh’s former vice president and successor, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has aligned himself even more closely with Washington, taking his orders from the US embassy and American special operations “advisers” who have been sent back into the country after being withdrawn during the recent popular upheavals.
According to Yemeni officials, Tuesday’s drone strikes followed a familiar pattern used to lethal effect in the CIA campaign in Pakistan. A first missile was fired against alleged insurgents meeting inside a house. The explosion drew a crowd to the scene as people sought to aid victims trapped in the rubble. These civilians then became the target for a second missile, which killed at least 12 people. Another 21 civilians were wounded in the second attack.
These latest casualties are part of a growing death toll as the Yemeni military, backed by US warplanes and directed by American special forces troops, wages a bloody campaign to retake the areas that came under the control of the Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) militia.
The US and Yemeni governments have claimed that the militia is merely another name for Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), while other Yemeni analysts insist that it includes both Al Qaeda elements and local groups and tribal factions. By branding all armed opposition as Al Qaeda, Washington is providing the justification for an open-ended war in Yemen against multiple opponents of the regime, including Shia rebels in the north of the country and those in the south seeking separation or autonomy from the central government.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva issued a statement Wednesday declaring: “Over the past few days, an escalation in fighting has resulted in scores of civilian casualties in Ja’ar.” Eric Marclay, the ICRC representative in Yemen, expressed particular concern about reports of “air strikes in civilian locations” and appealed to all sides to “protect civilians and allow health care workers to do their job safely.” The Red Cross said that it had distributed food and other items to some 100,000 internally displaced persons in Abyan province.
Both the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA are waging drone missile campaigns in Yemen, where the number of strikes over the past month has exceeded all previous attacks in the country carried out over the past nine years.
The Obama administration last month granted approval for the launching in Yemen of so-called “signature strikes,” in which targets are chosen based on the supposed detection of “patterns of suspicious behavior” rather than the positive identification of alleged Al Qaeda members.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks data on Washington’s formally covert bombing campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, reports that at least 747 people have been killed in strikes on Yemen since 2001. Out of these, 105 are known to have been civilians, and 24 of them children.
The Obama administration seized upon the popular upheavals in Yemen as the opportunity to step up the drone missile attacks, which have been further escalated in conjunction with the present US-directed offensive, which has included some 20 strikes in the last month. Yemen’s newly installed President Hadi has given his full support to the campaign, meeting last Sunday in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa with White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, who recently defended drone warfare as both legal and “ethical.” According to Reuters, however, other Yemeni officials have expressed concern that the US missile attacks will provoke popular anger, fueling the revolts in the south and elsewhere in the country.
Yemenis still remember with outrage the bloody December 2009 US cruise missile attack on the village of al-Majala in Abyan province, which killed at least 44 civilians, including 22 children and 12 women, five of them pregnant.
In addition to drone attacks, US fighter-bomber jets are also striking targets in Yemen. According to the Council on Foreign Affairs’ Micah Zenki, “there have been between ten and fifty other US attacks on militants in Yemen using manned aircraft or naval platforms.”
The Associated Press reported that the latest offensive is being directed by some 60 US special operations troops operating out of the al-Annad air base, located about 45 miles from the area of combat. The troops are “coordinating assaults and airstrikes and providing information to Yemeni forces,” according to the AP. It quoted a Yemeni official as saying that they “brought their mobile houses and buildings for a long stay.”
At a Pentagon press conference on Tuesday, Defense Department spokesman Capt. John Kirby described the activities of US troops in Yemen as “counterterrorism operations,” while repeatedly refusing to provide any details. He allowed that American forces “do conduct operations with the Yemenis to get after terrorist targets.”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration Wednesday issued an executive order empowering the Treasury Department to target the US-based assets of anyone deemed by the White House to be threatening “the peace, security and stability” of Yemen.
Targeted by the measures are not the insurgents being hunted down by the CIA and the US military, but rather relatives of the former US-backed dictator, Saleh, who are refusing to relinquish their grip over key levers of power in the country. These include Brigadier Gen. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president’s son, who headed the Republican Guard, and Brigadier Gen. Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, the former president’s nephew, who commands Yemen’s Central Security Forces. Another nephew, Tareq Saleh, has failed to cede command of the presidential guard, and the president’s half-brother, Gen. Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmar, staged a strike by the country’s air force after Hadi decreed that he give up its command to become an assistant to the minister of defense.
The unstable and faction-ridden regime backed by Washington sits on top of what is the Arab world’s poorest country, 55 percent of whose population subsist on less than $2 a day and where the unemployment rate has risen to 53 percent. According to a recent UN report, nearly one million Yemeni children suffer from “acute malnutrition,” and roughly a quarter million of them “are at risk of dying” unless they receive immediate aid.
The chief UN representative in Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told the AFP news agency that “there is very little [international] interest in this” He added, “Everybody speaks only about the politics, about the security issue, but that’s only half the story… this is a disaster.”

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US steps up drone war in Yemen

By Patrick Martin 

27 April 2012
President Barack Obama has approved much wider use of drone-fired missiles in Yemen, according to press reports Thursday, quoting unnamed US government officials. The result will be a much higher death toll from American attacks in that country, which has joined Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Somalia as a battlefield for the US military and CIA.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama had given the green light to a request by CIA Director David Petraeus to allow the agency to fire missiles at buildings, cars and armed groups without identifying exactly who is being targeted, based simply on a pattern of activity observed by US surveillance satellites or on-the-ground informants.
These “signature” strikes are a marked escalation from the previous “personality” strikes, which were restricted to individuals targeted as alleged leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a militant Islamist group that Washington claims has attempted terrorist attacks against US targets.
The Journal quoted a US official with reservations about the new policy, which he considered so broad that it was likely to provoke widespread opposition in Yemen which could undermine the US-backed government of newly installed President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. “Every Yemeni is armed, so how can they differentiate between suspected militants and armed Yemenis?” the official asked.
The Yemeni government must approve the missile strikes, thereby taking responsibility for them in the eyes of the Yemeni people, who overwhelmingly oppose US military intervention in their country.
The Washington Post reported that the first such signature strike took place last Sunday in Yemen’s Marib province, identifying the target as Mohammed Saeed al Umda, an AQAP commander whom US officials claimed was linked to the bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemeni port city of Aden in 2000. No evidence was presented to demonstrate that supposed connection.
Obama administration officials who confirmed the missile strikes claimed that they were aimed at “terrorists” who were planning attacks on US targets, not on the tribal or factional opponents of the US-backed Yemeni regime. But according to the Post, “In recent months, U.S. spy agencies have collected intelligence indicating plots against American diplomats or U.S. special operations troops who are working alongside Yemeni counter-terrorism units.”
In other words, the so-called “terrorists” are Yemenis who oppose the intervention of American military forces into their country to prop up the decades-long dictatorship of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who turned over his office to Hadi in February, but remains the principal power behind the scenes.
A Lebanese newspaper, the Daily Star, reported that another US drone strike killed three militants allegedly linked to Al Qaeda on Thursday, when a missile hit their car in the southern Yemen city of Mudiyah. Residents told the newspaper they saw two drones in the sky after the explosion.
It was not known whether this drone strike was conducted under the expanded authority just provided by the White House, or under the targeting rules previously in place. The CIA and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command have carried out at least nine missile strikes in Yemen so far in 2012, as many in four months as in the entire previous year.
The stepped-up drone strikes come as both the US and Yemeni government have issued warnings about a supposed upsurge of Al Qaeda activity in Yemen. The Hadi government warned that AQAP was planning an assault on Sana’a, the capital city, although nearly all known AQAP activity has been confined to the southwestern part of the country, far from Sana’a and much closer to the virtually unpoliced border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia’s “empty quarter.”
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, in a speech last week at New York police headquarters, described AQAP as “very, very dangerous,” claiming it has grown to more than 1,000 members since the assassination of one of its alleged top leaders, US-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, last September.
Awlaki was killed by a CIA drone missile, an attack approved by Obama under the doctrine, later elaborated by Attorney General Eric Holder, that the president has the authority to order the killing of any American citizen who is deemed an “enemy combatant,” without any legal process or judicial review.
FBI director Robert Mueller was in Sana’a Tuesday for talks with Hadi and Yemeni security officials. The FBI chief promised that the US government would continue to support Yemen “with full force” adding, “The US will provide the possible assistance in various aspects bilaterally with the international community to achieve stability in Yemen.”
On the same day, the Yemeni defense ministry said that an offensive in the southern province of Abyan had killed 52 militants in two days, mostly in the city of Zinjibar, which was captured by AQAP fighters last May. Yemeni troops, backed by artillery and tanks, pushed into the center of Zinjibar in the middle of the night Monday, destroying at least four tanks that had been previously captured by the militants.
Other Yemeni military operations against supposed AQAP militants are ongoing in Shabwa, Marib and Baitha provinces.
Drone missile attacks in Yemen have resulted in numerous atrocities in which innocent men, women and children, including entire families, and even the deputy governor of a province, were exterminated by “mistake,” because CIA or Pentagon targeters claimed they were opening fire on Al Qaeda targets.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, a US civil liberties group, has just filed a Freedom of Information request into the legal basis for a cruise missile attack in Al Majalah in Yemen in 2009, which killed 41 people, 21 of them children.
Cables released by WikiLeaks revealed the US State Department’s role in covering up the Al Majalah killings, for which the Yemeni government agreed to take responsibility, claiming the attack was carried out by Yemeni jet fighters, in order to conceal the use of US missiles.
According to the British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, US drone strikes in Pakistan since Obama took office have killed 535 civilians, including more than 60 children.
The escalation of drone attacks in Yemen means a death toll on that scale or even higher, justified by the Obama administration with the claim that it is preventing “imminent attacks” on the United States—although now, under the expanded authority approved by Obama, the US government need not even identify in advance those it is murdering.
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[10 October 2011]

CIA seeks to widen assassination campaign in Yemen

By Patrick Martin 

20 April 2012
The US Central Intelligence Agency is seeking to expand its authority to carry out remote-control assassinations in Yemen, according to a report Thursday in the Washington Post. CIA Director David Petraeus has made the request to the White House and the National Security Council is now discussing it, the newspaper said.
Petraeus is seeking permission to engage in “signature strikes,” using drone-fired missiles to attack targets identified “solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior,” the Post reported, without knowing exactly who was being targeted for extermination.
For all practical purposes, this means turning large parts of Yemen, a sovereign country whose government has a military alliance with the United States, into a free-fire zone, in which US missiles could be fired at virtually any gathering of men thought to be armed. The country is awash in weapons, particularly in the rural areas where tribal sheiks, rather than the central government, hold sway.
The request marks a significant escalation of the US operations in Yemen, which are conducted both by the CIA and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command. Both agencies use remote-controlled missiles as their primary weapons, selecting targets based on satellite intelligence and reports from on-the-ground spotters. According to published estimates, US agencies have conducted at least 27 strikes against Yemeni targets in the last three years, killing some 250 people.
Petraeus greatly increased the role of special forces in Afghanistan during his year as the commander of US military forces there, and he has continued this focus on covert paramilitary operations since becoming CIA director in 2011. “Signature strikes” have been a staple of CIA operations in the tribal regions of Pakistan, and now Petraeus wants to extend these methods into Yemen.
The Post report quoted an unidentified “senior administration official” to the effect that up to now the White House had opposed extensive strikes against targets in Yemen, limiting drone attacks to “only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States.” The CIA was required to select “personality” targets from a hit list approved by Obama, and fire missiles only when those individuals were being targeted.
This was the official story of the drone attack last September that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen born of Yemeni parents who had moved back to Yemen and become a propagandist for Islamic fundamentalism, posting English-language sermons online.
The Obama administration claimed that al-Awlaki was a leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), linked to several attacks inside the US, including both the November 2009 shootings at Fort Hood in Texas and the attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound jetliner a month later. Al-Awlaki and another US citizen were killed in a drone missile strike last September 30. Two weeks afterwards, al-Awlaki’s teenage son, also a US citizen, was killed in another strike, allegedly aimed at a different AQAP figure.
The murder of al-Awlaki became the occasion for the assertion of an extraordinary expansion of presidential power. Obama claimed the “right” to assassinate any American citizen based on his own determination that the citizen was an enemy combatant, without any legal proceeding or judicial review of his actions.
Another “senior US official” quoted anonymously by the Post expressed concern that the expanded military intervention could have wider political repercussions, given the political turmoil in Yemen, whose longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February after a year of anti-government demonstrations and bloody repression. “I think there is the potential that we would be perceived as taking sides in a civil war,” the official said.
According to a report last month in the Los Angeles Times, which gave details of a missile strike in Yemen conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command, “As the pace quickens and the targets expand, however, the distinction may be blurring between operations targeting militants who want to attack Americans and those aimed at fighters seeking to overthrow the Yemeni government. US officials insist that they will not be drawn into a civil war and that they do not intend to put ground troops in Yemen other than trainers and small special operations units” (emphasis added).
This article both confirmed the growing US intervention in the civil war, and revealed that the Obama administration has begun, without any public announcement, the same type of operation that was conducted last year in Libya: US troops are already on the ground in Yemen and playing a key role in directing and facilitating air strikes.
By this account, the main targets of the US attacks are three southern Yemeni provinces, Abyan, Shabwa, and Bayda, which have been largely outside central government control for several years. Even the US government admits that most of the armed men in these provinces are local Yemeni tribesmen who oppose the government in Sana, and resent the longstanding US military aid and support for that dictatorial regime.
US operations in southern Yemen are closely coordinated with the government in Sana, now headed by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Saleh’s vice president. Last month Yemen’s army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Ali Ashwal, went to Washington for talks with Pentagon officials. He was urged to reorganize the military for an offensive into the southern provinces, which will require use of tanks and artillery to dislodge tribal fighters.
More than 2,000 people were killed in the civil strife of the past year in Yemen, according to the country’s Ministry of Human Rights, the vast majority of them slaughtered by military forces or paramilitary gunmen loyal to Saleh. Yemen is the poorest of the Arab countries and one of the poorest in the world, with the second highest rate of chronic malnutrition; only US-occupied Afghanistan is worse.
Whether or not the White House approves the current CIA request, the United States is moving inexorably towards greater military involvement in Yemen and its surrounding region, including the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, key waterways for international trade, and particularly for the supply of oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe, with tankers traveling for hundreds of miles along the Yemeni coast on their way to the Suez Canal.
The region includes a number of geopolitical flashpoints, including Somalia, where the US military has conducted a series of drone strikes and commando raids targeting Islamic groups battling the US-backed regime in Mogadishu, and the Sudan, which this week declared war on South Sudan, the country formed through the secession of its southern half. Sudan and South Sudan have been in conflict for months over disputed territory along their border, the location of oil fields that are a major source of supply to China.

Seeking the Truth About U.S. Targeted Killing Strike That Killed Dozens of Women and Children in Yemen

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Fellow, ACLU, and Pardiss Kebriaei, Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

April 17, 2012 “Information Clearing House” —Today the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rightsfiled a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information about a horrific U.S. missile strike that killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.
This was the Obama administration’s first known missile strike in Yemen, carried out with one or more cruise missiles launched from an American warship or submarine on December 17, 2009. The U.S. military reportedly used cluster bombs, killing at least 41 people in the remote mountain village of al-Majalah in Yemen’s Abyan province. The government was purportedly targeting “militants,” but those killed include at least 21 children and 14 women. Entire families were wiped out. It is the worst reported loss of civilian life from a U.S. targeted killing strike in Yemen to date.
Although Yemen initially claimed responsibility for the attack, the press soon quoted unnamed American government officials acknowledging that in fact the U.S. had launched the strike. Those reports were confirmed when WikiLeaks released a secret diplomatic cable from January 2010 describing a meeting between then head of the U.S. Central Command General David Petraeus and then Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The cable describes General Petraeus and President Saleh discussing an apparent agreement that Yemen would help conceal U.S. involvement in the al-Majalah and other missile strikes in Yemen by publicly taking responsibility for those attacks. Even now, the U.S. government refuses to publicly discussits role in the strike.
A recently released film by journalist Jeremy Scahill and filmmaker Richard Rowley, America’s Dangerous Game, vividly illustrates the human toll of the strike, and describes the backlash against it in Yemen. In the below clip from the film, you’ll see footage taken just after the strike of child victims, images of missile parts scattered across the landscape, many clearly stamped as made in the U.S., and interviews with the few survivors.
The images are horrifying. Rarely has the American public seen so clearly the human costs of America’s targeted killing campaign. And yet, the U.S. government refuses to answer basic questions about its involvement or whether it has compensated victims’ families for their loss.

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Our FOIA request seeks information about the legal and factual basis for the al-Majalah strike, whether the government knew that civilians, including women and children, were present, and what steps it has taken to investigate the attack or compensate injured survivors and victims’ family members. We also ask for information concerning the U.S. government’s efforts to conceal its responsibility for the strike. The answers are crucial if the public is to evaluate whether the government’s targeted killing program is both legal and wise.
The U.S. asserts the right to use lethal force against suspected terrorists anywhere in the world, a claim that is legally questionable and deeply controversial, not least because killings far from any battlefield increase the risk that innocent civilians will die. Government officials repeatedly minimize or deny civilian deaths caused by the targeted killing program, but increasing reports of civilian casualties caused by strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere raise serious questions about whether the government is violating international and domestic law by failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and by using lethal force away from active battlefields.
As the America ramps up its targeted killing campaign in Yemen, our government must explain what went wrong in the al-Majalah strike and what it is doing to avoid making the same mistakes again.
This article was first published at aclu.org
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