Blog Archives

Killer Drones in the Empire State

UK Drone Killings: PM must Publish Intelligence Committee Report

Cloaked Order: Who’s Really Behind ‘New Authority’ for CIA Drone Strikes?

US Sends Drones, Assassination Squad to South Korea. Massive “War Games” Directed against DPRK Underway

‘Bomb the Sh*t Out Of Them!’ – Trump Drones Yemen More in One Week Than Obama in a Year

Drone Warfare, Remote Killing in Northern Syria. What We Know about the Khan Killing

How Extrajudicial Executions Became “War” Policy in Washington

Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya: Obama’s Drone Casualty Numbers Conceals Extensive US War Crimes

Obama’s Drone War against Pakistan: Killing Taxi Drivers for Freedom

“Spontaneous Warfare” against Iraqi and Syrian Civilians: Only Five Percent of British Drone and Air Strikes Are Pre-Planned

Drone for Obama – Anyone? Extrajudicial Killings “in the Name of Peace”

Drone for Obama – Anyone?

US Army Chaplain Resigns in Protest Over Drones, ‘Policy of Unaccountable Killing

Obama Admits US Drone Strikes Kill Civilians

Another Mass Killing

500 Days of British Drone Attacks in Iraq and Syria, “Against ISIS” or “Against Civilians”?

Killing Someone Else’s Beloved Promoting the American Way of War in Campaign 2016

Inaccurate Metadata Analysis Used to Kill Thousands in US Drone Strikes

A-Z of Drones 2015. Israeli Drones, the “Killer Robots” Campaign, Obama’s Promises

A-Z of Drones 2015: Civilian Casualties, Afghanistan, Gaza

Drone Strikes Are Creating Hatred Toward America That Will Last for Generations

Britain Killed our Children with its ‘Precision’ Bombing from Drones and Jets

Drone Operators Rebel, Accuse Obama Administration of “Killing the Innocent” and “Fuelling Terrorism”

Former Drone Pilots Denounce ‘Morally Outrageous’ Program

US Terrorism

whydidyoukillBy Jake Heller

December 09, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “NBC” – Former Air Force airmen are speaking out against America’s use of drone warfare, calling the military drone program “morally outrageous” and “one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

In interviews with NBC News, three former servicemen — who together have 15 years of military drone experience — decried the civilian cost of drone strikes and called on President Obama to “turn this around” before he leaves office.

“We were very callous about any real collateral damage,” said Michael Haas, 29, who worked as both a drone operator and instructor. “Whenever that possibility came up, most of the time it was a ‘guilt by association’ or sometimes we didn’t even consider other people that were on screen.”

Alongside a former drone operator who was not available to speak with NBC News, the three self-described whistleblowers also wrote a letter to President Obama, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and CIA Director John Brennan in which they link drone strikes to the rise of ISIS and to the recent attacks in Paris. For terrorists, they wrote, drone attacks are “a fundamental recruiting tool similar to Guantanamo Bay.”

The Air Force, in a statement sent to NBC News, said: “Our remotely piloted aircraft operators perform a critically important mission that contributes significantly to national defense and global security.” The statement did not address the former airmen’s claims directly.

American drone strikes have increased exponentially under President Obama; in Pakistan alone, the current administration has launched 370 strikes compared to the Bush administration’s 51, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks the attacks.

Add Somalia and Yemen (using New America Foundation data), and President Obama has launched 894 percent more drone strikes than did his predecessor.

Combined, drone strikes on Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen have killed 2,736 to 4,169 militants, according to the New America Foundation.

Meanwhile, those strikes have also killed hundreds of civilians. Estimates range from 488 to 1,071, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

“We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country’s leaders lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program,” the four men wrote in their letter.

Their lawyer, Kathleen McClellan, called their open opposition a “historic moment.”

“This is the first time this many people who served in the drone program are speaking out,” she said in an interview with NBC News.

Stephen Lewis, 29, who controlled the cameras on the drones that helped guide Hellfire missiles into their targets, said he “drank [himself] to sleep” every night after getting home from work. “It was the culture there,” he said. “Everybody did something to take the edge off — to reform reality so you didn’t have to think about what you did.”

Cian Westmoreland, 28, who worked on communications infrastructure out of bases in Germany and Afghanistan, said he had nightmares “about kids or mothers dying and me trying to help them, and I couldn’t.

“I would just feel helpless. And I knew it was partially my fault,” he said.

Brandon Bryant, 30, was the former drone operator not available for an interview.

All four men say that they suffer from PTSD. Their representatives say they were all honorably discharged — and that they were offered reinstatement bonuses that ranged from $50,000 to $110,000.

Drone pilots “are professional and comply with applicable law, policies and adhere to very exacting procedures,” the Air Force added. “Airmen are expected to adhere to established standards of behavior.”

The Air Force is currently struggling to retain drone pilots and is losing more pilots than it is training, though it says “a great deal of effort is being taken” to “stabilize the force.”

“The remotely piloted aircraft career field is under severe strain,” the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in its May 2015 report.

Lewis remembers why he left. “Immediately after I took my first life,” he said, he told his superiors that “I didn’t belong there — I didn’t need to be there anymore.

“People think it’s a video game,” he said. “But in a video game you have checkpoints, you have restart points.”

With drones, “when you fire that missile, there’s no restart.”

Killer Drone News Blackout Continues As Mainstream Media Ignore Four Whistleblowers

Obama’s War on Truth. USAF Drone Operators “Who Blew the Whistle”

Drone Pilots have Bank Accounts and Credit Cards Frozen by Feds for Exposing US Murder

‘Drone Papers’ Revelations Are a Cry for Ending the Slaughter

‘The Drone Papers’ Revelations Are a Cry for Ending the Slaughter

Do Drone Strikes Create More Terrorists Than They Kill?

Secret U.S. Drone Base Rapidly Expanding in Djibouti

Obama Ordered Ten Times More Drone Strikes than Bush

I Can Reveal the Legal Advice on Drone Strikes, and How the British Establishment Works

America’s Drone Policy Is All Exceptions And No Rules

Near certainty of targeted drone attacks sow death for an apology

How Our Drone Policy Backfires

Obama’s Drone Warfare: Assassination Made Routine

Obama Has Killed More People with Drones than Died On 9/11

Torture “Architect” Mistaken in Claim Nobody’s Punished for Drone Murders

By David Swanson

December 11, 2014 “ICH” –  A psychologist who played a key role in a U.S. torture program said on a video yesterday that torture was excusable because blowing up families with a drone is worse (and nobody’s punished for that). Well, of course the existence of something worse is no excuse for torture. And he’s wrong that no one is punished for drone murders. The protesters are. Latest example:

“Missouri judge convicts and sentences two peace activists for protesting drone warfare at Whiteman Air Force Base.

“Jefferson City, MO—On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of  Kansas  City, MO and Chicagoan Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation  as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB.   Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly to three months in prison and Walker to one year of supervised probation.

“In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden.  “I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly. ‘The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people.  In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.’

“During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base.  Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri.  Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.

“Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul.  She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard. At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians.”

On December 3, Mark Colville, a protester of drone murders at Hancock Air Base in New York, was sentenced to a one year conditional release, $1000 fine, $255 court costs, and to give a DNA sample to NY State. “This sentence was a great departure from what Judge Jokl threatened to give Mark,” said Ellen Grady. “We are relieved that the judge did not give him the maximum and we in the courtroom were very moved by Mark’s powerful statement to the court. May the resistance continue!”

This was Colville’s statement in court:

“Judge Jokl:

“I am standing here before you tonight because I tried to intervene on behalf of a family in Afghanistan whose members have experienced the unspeakable trauma of witnessing loved ones being blown to pieces, murdered by hellfire missiles fired from remote control aircraft like those flown from the 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Airbase. I stand here, under judgement in this court, because a member of that family, Raz Mohammad, wrote an urgent plea to the courts of the United States, to our government and military, to stop these unprovoked attacks on his people, and I made a conscientious decision to carry Mr. Mohammad’s plea to the gates of Hancock. Make no mistake: I am proud of that decision. As a husband and father myself, and as a child of God, I do not hesitate to affirm that the actions for which I stand subject to punishment in this court tonight were responsible, loving and nonviolent. As such, no sentence that you pronounce here can either condemn me or deligitimize what I’ve done, nor will it have any impact on the truth of similar actions undertaken by dozens of others who are still awaiting trial in this court.

“The drone base within your jurisdiction is part of a military/intelligence undertaking that is not only founded upon criminality, but is also, by any sober analysis, allowed to operate beyond the reach of law. Extrajudicial killings, targeted assassinations, acts of state terrorism, the deliberate targeting of civilians- all of these crimes form the essence of the weaponized drone program that the United States government claims to be legal in its prosecution of the so called “war on terror”. Recent studies have shown that for every targeted person killed in a drone strike, twenty eight people of undetermined identity have also been slaughtered. The military admits to employing a mode of operation called “double-tapping”, in which a weaponized drone is directed back to strike a target a second time, after first responders have arrived to help the wounded. Yet never has any of this been subject to congressional approval or, more importantly, to the scrutiny of U.S. courts. In this case, you had the opportunity, from where you sit, to change that. You’ve heard the testimony of several trials similar to mine; you know what the reality is. You also heard the desperate plea of Raz Mohammad, which was read in open court during this trial. What you chose was to further legitimize these crimes by ignoring them. The faces of dead children, murdered by our nation’s hand, had no place in this court. They were excluded. Objected to. Irrelevant. Until that changes, this court continues to take an active, crucial role in condemning the innocent to death. In so doing, this court condemns itself.

“And I think it’s fitting to end with the words of Raz that were sent to me this afternoon on behalf of his sister, widowed after a drone attack killed her young husband:

“‘My sister says that for the sake of her 7 year old son, she doesn’t want to bear any grudges or take revenge against the U.S./NATO forces for the drone attack that killed his father. But, she asks that the U.S./NATO forces end their drone attacks in Afghanistan, and that they give an open account of deaths cause by drone attacks in this country.'”

Plans are being made for big national protests at Shaw Air Base in South Carolina (dates to be determined) and at Creech Air Base in Nevada (that one March 1-4).

Actions at Hancock Air Base in New York are ongoing, as at Beale in CA and Battle Creek, MI.

Want to get involved in opposing drone murder?


Organize with KnowDrones

Support Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Get your city or state to oppose drones.

Get anti-drone shirts, stickers, hats, etc.

Brian Terrell, who has spent 6 months behind bars already for opposing murder by drone, offers some useful insights in an article called Redefining “Imminent”.

So does a victim’s child in My father was killed by a computer, says 7 year old Afghan child.

As does drone murder protester Joy First in  What Happens When You Talk With Americans About Drone Murders.

Find more articles here.

If Drone Strikes Are Acceptable, So Are Suicide Bombings

By Tim Holmes

November 30, 2014 “ICH” – “Medium” –  “Clinical”, “surgical”, “targeted”, “precision”. As US massacres-by-drone continue across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, their ugly accomplice is the bastardisation of language. Human rights group Reprieve have justcalculated the number of innocent victims each drone strike claims, posing the question: by what standards are 1,150 civilians — almost half a World Trade Centre — an acceptable price for 41 “terrorist suspects”? How is this “surgical precision”?

That’s assuming the targets are who we are told. In almost every case, we are forced to take the US government at its word.

The media play along. Yet if Russia or Iran bombed Western “terrorists” day in, day out, would journalists take their word for it? Would we allow such attacks to continue all but unnoticed?

Instead, the US presents itself as a surgeon at the operating table — as do the press. A choice metaphor transforms brutal violence into humanitarian aid: if cutting someone open is gruesome, “surgery” sounds friendly — a temporary, restorative, proportionate act for the patient’s good.

The contrast with Western discourse on “terrorism” — that is, Muslim retaliation against the West — could hardly be more blatant. “They” are barbarians; their killings wilful, bloodthirsty, indiscriminate.

In 2001, the Guardian contrasted

“the west’s commitment to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties and the terrorists’ proven wish to cause as many civilian casualties as possible … Let them do their worst, we shall do our best, as Churchill put it. That is still a key difference.”

In fact, US policy resembles Israel’s war crimes under brutal megalomaniac Ariel Sharon — who, in one infamous incident, dropped a one-tonne bomb on a densely-populated civilian area in Gaza, claiming to target one man.

As Israel-Palestine scholar Norman Finkelstein points out, if Hamas bombed a bus, claiming “we meant only to target the bus, not the passengers”, people would laugh. Yet from Israel and Western governments, we take the same absurdities deadly seriously.

In 2001, Bush’s lawless kidnapping and torture at Guantanamo Bay horrified and disturbed the world.

Now, imprisonment without trial continues — and alongside it, execution without trial. Where Bush began by kidnapping, Obama assassinates.

Drone strikes have butchered 28 innocent people for every “suspect” targeted. Is that morally acceptable?

If so, why not an attack that kills 4 jihadists and 52 civilians? Applying the moral logic of drone strikes, we would have to declare it a great success.

Yet this is a description of the 7 July 2005 bombings in London.

We commit grave acts of terror on a single pretext: that our targets might commit grave acts of terror.

How do our governments get away with it? Why do drone strikes prompt so little response?

The first answer is that they are invisible. They take place in distant, unfamiliar countries, and we see almost no footage.

The second is propaganda. The Pentagon labels victims “enemy combatants” — when mentioning them at all. Rather than challenge the label, the media echoes it.

The third is racism. To imagine that our governments would use drone strikes in America or Britain is laughable. We would have no difficulty recognising them as acts of terror; their perpetrators would be tried and punished.

Yet so little value do we assign lives in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan that deliberate mass executions barely raise an eyebrow.

Even this, though, casts Obama’s policy in too kind a light.

In some cases there is no evidence that our targets are “terrorist suspects” at all.

Second, the US undertakes “signature strikes”: NSA spies tease out “suspicious patterns of behaviour” in their data; anyone flagged up is executed. (Reprieve’s latest figures omit these cases.)

Third, the Pentagon conducts “double-tap” strikes, hitting the same area twice in quick succession, bombing anyone trying to help the victims of the first attack.

Fourth, as the New York Times discovered, the White House “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”. “Shoot first, ask questions later”; “guilty until proven innocent”: these used to be scathing, satirical phrases. Under Obama, they are policy.

Just as they would here, drone strikes in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia make people angry and want to hit back. So to commit mass murder, the Western public pays twice — both today, in public funds, and tomorrow, in the inevitable violent backlash against us.

War Without End: 12 Years of US Drone Strikes in Yemen

The “Yemen model” is one of perpetual violence. The limits of what can be done in the name of “counterterrorist” action often appear boundless.

By Iona Craig

October 24, 2014 “ICH” – “New Statesman” –   Salem Al-Taysi’s big brown eyes stared straight through me. I was trying to ask him about his father, who had been killed six days earlier in a US drone strike that had rocked this barren hillside in remote central Yemen. But Salem did not say a word. The boy, who appeared to be about ten years old, just gazed intently into the middle distance as his younger siblings huddled around him.

It is hard to forget Salem’s eyes. Every time the White House claimed that the 12 civilians, including his father, who were killed in a wedding procession on Dec. 12 were Al-Qaeda militants, I thought of him. I remember his brothers and sisters and the 17 other children I met that day who had lost their fathers. I think of the scores of people in the village, living without any support from the government, without electricity or running water, who had lost their main breadwinner.

This is the grim reality of the “Yemen model” touted again last month by the US president, Barack Obama, as he outlined his strategy for tackling the threat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

It is 12 years since the first US missile strikes hit Yemen. The “Yemen model” is one of perpetual violence, war without end. It is an opaque conflict in which no one knows what qualifies an individual to become a target for US drones, for Yemeni, Saudi or US fighter jets, or for US-trained Yemeni counter-terrorism groups. The limits of what can be done in the name of “counter-terrorist” action often appear boundless.

Without American boots on the ground, Washington can maintain this never-ending war while facing few questions from the public at home. A YouGov survey on Sept. 4 showed that only 16 percent of Americans were aware that their government had carried out bomb attacks on Yemen in the previous six months. Washington never claims responsibility for its air or naval strikes. Under the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemeni politicians even lied to their parliament on behalf of Washington and claimed responsibility for US bombings.

In two years’ time, the problem of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will pass on to another US president. Obama has managed to stave off an attack by AQAP on the US, though he came close to failure in 2009 when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a passenger jet. Had the explosives planted in his underwear detonated as planned, the Yemen model as we now know it might have looked very different, though undoubtedly the US focus would still be purely military.

Pre-occupied by missile strikes and the training of counterterrorism troops, Washington has failed to tackle the underlying causes of Al-Qaeda’s rise in Yemen. In the past five years, the number of Al-Qaeda and Ansar Al-Sharia (AQAP) supporters and militants has grown.

It is no coincidence that Al-Qaeda was able to garner support from local people when it took control of towns in the southern province of Abyan in 2011. In a secessionist area, already hostile towards a northern government perceived as oppressive, residents of the town of Ja’ar (militants renamed it the Islamic Emirate of Waqar) welcomed the insurgents’ ability to maintain the electricity supply and provide security and a justice system where the state had failed.

As Samir Al-Mushari, a farmer who was severely burned in an apparent US drone strike on the town, told me in May 2012, “Ansar Al-Sharia solved many problems for us that the government hadn’t managed to do for 20 years.” Life was better for many under Al-Qaeda until the US-backed campaign to remove the Islamists began in 2012.

Almost three years after the de facto ousting of President Saleh, the transitional government’s limited credibility has been eroded by the worsening humanitarian situation and the lack of security or law and order. A UN-backed political transition process, formulated in 2011, has flagged. The last parliamentary elections were held in 2003 and the social contract has expired. On Sept. 21, Houthi fighters (the Houthis are a Shia clan) took control of the capital, Sana’a, forcing an agreement that included the dissolution of the government.

Anti-US sentiment has soared in the four years since I first arrived in Yemen. The numbers of Al-Qaeda fighters have grown. They are spreading across the country and the volume and scope of their attacks have increased. There is still no visible end for the “Yemen model.” For Obama, the endgame will come when he leaves office in 2017. But when will it end for Yemen?

© New Statesman 1913 – 2014

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