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A broad range of militants were deemed to dangerous to be left alive in recent operations

Under fire over its defense over potential drone killings of Americans deemed as "terrorists" on U.S. soil, the Obama administration's growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is being intensively scrutinized by both politicians and the media.

I. Deadly, But Not Very Precise

New documents obtained by McClatchy's reveal that of the 95 drone strikes in the Pakistan region between Oct. 2010 and Sept. 2011, many did not target al-Qaeda and those that did were not as accurate as thought.

The drone campaign managed to kill 482 people, but only 6 were high-ranking members of al-Qaeda.  Analyst Jonathan Landay reports, "At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were 'assessed' as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists."

Drone death strike
[Image Source: McClatchy's]

In the past the Obama administration has claimed that the death strikes by armed Predator and Reaper drones, employed primarily by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, were used only on "specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces."

Micah Zenko, an expert with the bipartisan foreign-relations think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, says that the administration is misleading Americans, commenting, "[The Obama administration is] misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted."

Reaper drones
Reaper drones have been used in numerous Pakistan and Yemen death strikes.
[Image Source: The Real Revo]

But White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says that the administration does not need to specify explicitly who it is targeting and to make no assumptions.  She remarks, "You should not assume [CIA Chief John Brennan] is only talking about al-Qaeda just because he doesn’t say ’al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces’ at every reference."

So who was the administration targeting in the 43 out of 95 drone strikes that did not target al-Qaeda?  According to McClatchy's, the documents indicate that the strikes in question targeted "Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as 'foreign fighters' and 'other militants.'"

The documents also reveal that U.S. efforts to kill terrorist leaders often accidentally instead killed friends or family members.  Drone strikes were even used to target somber occasions, such as individuals leaving funerals.

II. Is the U.S. Killing Civilians, Allies Accidentally?

One major complaint of the administration's critics is lack of transparency in the deadly offensive.  The administration has refused to release a list of "terrorist" organizations that it considers "associated forces" of al-Qaeda.  So far only Afghanistan's Taliban has been officially acknowledged as an al-Qaeda ally.  Also not revealed was whether the administration conducted so-called "signature killings" -- killings of locals who met with al-Qaeda or exhibited other behavior deemed suspicious.
 
Drone Killing
Survivors pick through the rubble looking for relatives after an Oct. 2012 drone strike in Yemen.
[Image Source: Reuters]

New CIA chief John Brennan in February acknowledged that the drone strikes sometimes miss the mark and kill innocent civilians, but he defended the program saying the U.S. paid the families of people it accidentally killed.  He commented, "Where possible, we also work with local governments to gather facts, and, if appropriate, provide condolence payments to families of those killed."

Condolence payments range from $1,000 to $7,500 according to various reports [1][2][3], depending on the circumstances.

Civlian casualties
Drone strikes
As CIA director (bottom right) escalated drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan civilian casualties (top, left) have grown.
[Image Source: BIJ (top); The Long War Journal (bottom left); Reuters (bottom right)]


Four American citizens with ties to terrorism -- Kamal Derwish, Anwar al-Awlaki, 16-year-old Abdulahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan -- have been killed to date in drone strikes in Yemen.  Family members of the dead American citizens have sued the Obama administration with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In August 2012, a drone strike in Yemen killed a 40-year-old moderate cleric Salem bin Ahmed bin Ali Jaber just two days after he delivered a speech denouncing al-Qaeda.  The irony is that the al-Qaeda officers who were targeted in the strike, reportedly came into town to threaten Mr. Jaber for his support of the U.S. and pacifistic leanings.

Predator missile
Some feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans on U.S. soil. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]

It's clear more questions need to be asked about the program.  But don't expect the answers to come easy from an administration who explicitly ordered its Press Secretary to dodge questions about drone strikes.

Source: McClatchy's



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Better than nothing
By UzairH on 4/11/2013 3:24:10 AM , Rating: 4
I am from Pakistan, and I approve of any means that can be used to eliminate the al-qaeda/taliban scum from our lands. If our own government and military would show some spine and take ownership of fighting the scum there would be no need for foreign forces to operate in the region.

That said, of course I would like to see zero collateral "damage" i.e. deaths of innocents. But really, we Pakistanis brought this on ourselves by giving (and continuing to give) support and succor to the terrorists. Alas I am in the minority in my country in such opposition to violent religionists.




RE: Better than nothing
By UzairH on 4/11/2013 3:30:32 AM , Rating: 2
I should also have added: the violent religionists (I call them this rather than mere terrorists because their actions are driven DIRECTLY from religion) have caused immense damage and suffering to our country, killing tens of thousands of civilians and armed forces personnel, and many senior politicians and even an army general. But still there is an element of support and sympathy for these murderers.

I used to wonder why this is so, but no longer, having studied the religion which is shared by the murderers and the victims. Blind obedience is the first requirement of following this religion, coupled with total fear, and thus the population as a whole is conditioned to not condemn even those who murder their kin in the shared religion's name.

I see little hope for my country unless this blind obedience to ignorance is replaced by rationality; in other words, a snowflake's chance in hell of happening any time soon :)


RE: Better than nothing
By ShieTar on 4/11/2013 4:32:13 AM , Rating: 2
Blind obedience is the key requirement of any religion. It is why religion was invented. No religious text in the history of mankind has ever contained the words "Don't believe the priests" or "Do as you like".

That aside, the US actions are not "Better than nothing". The declared purpose of the UN actions in Afghanistan is to implement the concepts of democracy and constitutional legality. But at some point along the way, the US decided that this is best achieved by killing suspiciously looking people without involving a court of law. This is stone-age tribalism, too many of the responsible people are too uneducated to think in anything more complex than "good" and "evil", and just keep on killing in hope of a magical "final victory". Thy will feel justified to kill the "evil" persons, who in reality did nothing but themselves kill people they considered as "evil". Or worse, people who look like they might sympathize with "evil", because of the weapons and the beards they wear, or the militant group they are suspected to be part of.

Nothing like that will happen of course, every assassinated Afghan of Pakistani leaves behind a dozen or more people who now have their own reasons to hate and fight the US, the UN and all they are supposed to and pretend to represent. There is never peace without justice, and never justice without equal rights.


RE: Better than nothing
By BRB29 on 4/11/2013 7:53:42 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Blind obedience is the key requirement of any religion. It is why religion was invented...


You must not have studied religion. There are a few religions that doe snot require blind obedience. The most popular one is Buddhism.

quote:
That aside, the US actions are not "Better than nothing". The declared purpose of the UN actions in Afghanistan is to implement the concepts of democracy and constitutional legality. But at some point along the way, the US decided that this is best achieved by killing suspiciously looking people without involving a court of law. This is stone-age tribalism, too many of the responsible people are too uneducated to think in anything more complex than "good" and "evil", and just keep on killing in hope of a magical "final victory". Thy will feel justified to kill the "evil" persons, who in reality did nothing but themselves kill people they considered as "evil". Or worse, people who look like they might sympathize with "evil", because of the weapons and the beards they wear, or the militant group they are suspected to be part of.


Have you been to Afghan? I have. They have plenty of people from a bunch of different countries. In fact, this is where terrorists like to gather because any type of traditional warfare does not work here. Good evil whatever...it's pretty clear to many people that religion is literally being used to manipulate poor people into obedience here.

Our mission there is not to implement concepts of democracy or or constitutional legality. That is one of our objectives. The whole point of fighting in afghan is to keep the terrorists at their homeland and wreaking havoc on their training grounds.

What court of law are you talking about? These people have no law. They don't respect the UN or the Geneva Convention. They'll kill you in front of a camera and post it on the internet to instill fear. We actually treat them according to the Geneva Convention when we do capture them.

quote:
Nothing like that will happen of course, every assassinated Afghan of Pakistani leaves behind a dozen or more people who now have their own reasons to hate and fight the US, the UN and all they are supposed to and pretend to represent. There is never peace without justice, and never justice without equal rights.


No it doesn't. If anything, it leaves a dozen or more people feeling less fearful to these terrorists. People don't talk against them because they know they'll be executed on the spot. You can't possibly be serious that you think everyone wants war. Almost everyone wants to fight to protect something important to them, these terrorists are brainwashed to think they're protecting their religion/homeland/family when they're the ones killing their own people.

You ever wonder why people don't speak out or fight back? Because most of those people are already dead or will be dead if they speak out. Stop living in a cave and pretend everything is okey dokey. Your rights and life are protected, theirs is not. Laws and court doesn't really exist there.


"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton














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