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Unsatisifed with "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars per dead civilian, Pakistanis demand action

Could the U.S., who perennial accuses its enemies of war crimes soon face those accusations itself before the UN?  That possibility appears increasingly likely following a landmark Pakistani court ruling.

I. Embattled UAV Death Strike Program is Condemned by Court

In the name of fighting terrorism the U.S. has been carrying out a silent war of drone strikes in Pakistan, Qatar, and other Middle Eastern states, order death-strikes on what it say are "terrorists".  But recently released numbers reveal the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) warfare program, largely controlled by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, has a very low succes rate in terms of killing high-profile militants, while having large levels of civilian collateral damage with some strikes killing women and children.

In response four petitions by tribal leaders complaining that U.S. drone strikes were killing civilians, Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and the junior judge on Pakistan two-judge Peshawar High Court panel decided that the drone were war crimes as they killed innocent civilians.

The panel says that the drone strikes were inhumane and violated the UN Charter on Human Rights.  The court is asking the government of Pakistan to push a UN resolution to condemn the strikes and declare them a war crimes, writing [according to translation by The Press Trust of India, "The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future.  If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US."
 
Drone Killing
Pakistanis aren't satisifed with the U.S.'s "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars per dead civilian.  [Image Source: Reuters]
 
Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for victims in the case, is quoted as saying, "This is a landmark judgment. Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: if drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court."

II. Shift in Pakistani Leadership May Give War Crimes Allegations New Life

So far the Pakistani government, which relies on the U.S. for billions in aid payoffs has been hesitant to declare the U.S. guilty of war crimes.  The U.S. federal government gave $17B USD [source] in 2009 to the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Pakistan.  Of these nations, Egypt has seen its government overthrown since on allegations of corruption, while Afghanistan has struggled under the weight of similar allegations of sweeping bribery and corruption.  And Pakistan has beenimplicated in sheltering Osama bin Laden, the world's most famous terrorist.

But some foreign observers say regardles of special interests the Pakistani government should not tolerate the civilian deaths.  Comments Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based human rights watchdog group Reprieve, "Today's momentous decision by the Peshawar High Court shines the first rays of accountability onto the CIA's secret drone war."

Some in the U.S. and Britain argue that the strikes are doing little to combat terrorism, and in fact are pushing locals towards terrorism.

In August 2012, a drone strike in Ye
men 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]

To be fair, U.S. President Obama has claimed a similar authority to kill American "terrorists" without warrant on U.S. soil (although his adminstration tried to cover up that policy).  The administration also does have a policy of paying the family of civilians it kills in the Middle East "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars per body.

While the current administration may be hesistant to take action in the UN against the U.S. elections are fast approaching.  This Saturday's election sees the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party leading in current polls.  Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the party's leader, promises a zero-tolerance policy on drone strike civilian deaths.  He comments, "Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country's autonomy and independence."

The U.S. has often accused hostile regimes like the governments of Syria, Sudan, Iran, and North Korea of war crimes in recent years.  However, it has seldom been on the receiving end of such accusations, despite an aggressive (and expensive) overseas military program.

Source: The Independent



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RE: What?
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/13/2013 11:23:08 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
"Some feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans on U.S. soil."

"Some"!?
Yup, I've broached the topic with certain Obama-obsessed "Party Democrat" family members and they argued it was fine (I kid you not) because "the Constitution is outdated" in their opinion, and they believe Obama would never abuse that unchecked power and that "we live in a scary world today where people want to kill Americans (so warrantless deathstrikes are necessary)."

I found the irony in that last justification particularly amusing in a disturbing way.

/facepalm


RE: What?
By mcnabney on 5/13/2013 12:10:18 PM , Rating: 1
How are your feeling about:

Reagan - bombing Libya numerous times and sinking their 'navy', shelling Beirut, invading Grenada, training guerrillas in El Salvador, shooting down Iranian fighters over international waters, attacking Iranian oil platforms, and finally shooting down an Iranian passenger plane?


RE: What?
By Coldfriction on 5/13/2013 12:24:28 PM , Rating: 3
If you're trying to assume that Jason Mick is playing partisan politics, and that he is a hard core republican, you haven't been following Dailytech long enough. I started reading here because of Masher, and didn't like Jason's perspective at all back then (it seemed as though he were on a liberal global warming spree). Since that time Jason has changed and so have I. Jason has never struck me as a Reagan lover and I think you're trolling is in very poor taste.


RE: What?
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/13/2013 2:38:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If you're trying to assume that Jason Mick is playing partisan politics, and that he is a hard core republican, you haven't been following Dailytech long enough.
Correct.

I would vote for any candidate I believed would best represent me, protect the Constitution, and promote domestic and international security in a responsible manner, regardless of their party affiliation. Hence I'm no more a Republican than I am a Democrat.
quote:
I started reading here because of Masher, and didn't like Jason's perspective at all back then (it seemed as though he were on a liberal global warming spree).
Correct, my writing career at DailyTech started as a counterpoint to Masher, but in time (and with many debates) I came to greatly respect and admire his perspective.

While I did not and still do not agree with everything he said or wrote, he taught me that "black and white" issues are often far more grey than the zealots and demagogues would have you believe.

He also taught me to keep a watchful eye out for the sweeping assaults by special interests on the Constitution, pseudoscience, and attacks on small entrepreneurship that are oft occurring in America today.

Even in the face of a deluge of glaring special interest debacles I write about in a daily basis, with both of America's parties (or sometimes both) being at times culpable, I strive to maintain optimism while informing my readers of these issues.

I have Michael Asher to thank for that, in part, as well as the mentorship of this site's original executive editor Kristopher Kubicki.
quote:
Jason has never struck me as a Reagan lover and I think you're trolling is in very poor taste.
Again, your comment rings true.

I think like most legacies in recent years, President Ronald Reagan's is mixed. Calling his Presidency better or worse is a matter of comparing lesser evils as federal power and corruption has been unchecked and growing throughout much of the last century, and his administration was by no means immune to such trends.

You can like and admire the good parts/actions of his administration. There are some actions that Reagan, Bush (Sr.), Clinton, Bush, and even Obama have done that I admire in that they seem to protect the Constitution and are in the best interest of Americans. However, each and any of those administrations also carried out a number of actions I could point to as being unethical and contributing to the troubled state our nation is in today.

I'm a fan of America and its founding principles, not so much of any particular recent administration in the modern era of bloated federal government.


RE: What?
By mcnabney on 5/13/2013 3:06:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yet neither of you addressed the not hidden at all message that every president has used the US military to attack nations outside of Congressional approval. Now we attack individuals in areas that the de facto nation has little control (Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan).

The only difference is that the tools are far more precise and the risk to US service members is almost completely gone.

In the 60's and 70's we carpet bombed neutral nations like Cambodia.
In the 80's and 90's we used laser guided 2,000 pound bombs that were directed by planes several miles up and we were only guessing who was actually in the building.
Now we use ROVs that can spot individual targets and we hit them with explosives that weigh less than 100 pounds.

What we have today is far far far far more accurate and much less likely to kill civilians. If you know some other way to engage a terrorist group that has no infrastructure to target without putting 100k boots on the ground to route them out, I would love to hear it. Or to use a Bushism - we fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here. I thought that was a pretty terrible excuse for a war, but to wage what is essentially a police action it makes a lot more sense.


RE: What?
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/13/2013 3:50:13 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Yet neither of you addressed the not hidden at all message that every president has used the US military to attack nations outside of Congressional approval. Now we attack individuals in areas that the de facto nation has little control (Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan).
Your point is valid, but somewhat immaterial as Congress has control over the military and intelligence community's budget.

So why aren't they checking these unauthorized invasions? Plain and simple, invasions = war = payouts to defense contractors = one of the largest special interest lobbying groups who pay for Congresspeople to get elected:

http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?In...

Between 1998 and 2012 the defense industry spent over $130M USD in payments to presidential and Congressional candidates. Based on recent figures that $1 in special interest campaign contributions earns you $240 USD in kickbacks, on average, this means Congress (and the president) owe these contractors around $31B USD in kickbacks.

Suddenly the reason why Congress and the President support a lot of operations and invasions that are unpopular and at times nonsensical/counterproductive makes a lot more sense.

Feed the hand that feeds.

In the 1960-1980s military operations were at least partially motivated by the cultural fear of the spread of communism, real or imagined.

Of late, though, as lobbying money has increased (the cost of a House seat rose nearly 10x between 1998 and 2008) the demand for constant warfare outside of any useful context has increased and been answered by the President and Congress regardless of the particular party or administration.


RE: What?
By M'n'M on 5/13/2013 4:36:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Suddenly the reason why Congress and the President support a lot of operations and invasions that are unpopular and at times nonsensical/counterproductive makes a lot more sense. Feed the hand that feeds.


While following the money is a good idea, I think you need to follow it a little deeper. Look at the specific contracts the top 5 US defense contractors make their profits on. Think about how much actual wars, with boots on the ground, cost and how those costs put pressure on the profit making contracts. Are the invasions helping or hurting the call to spend $$s on the JSF, F-22, GMD (or it's lesser but more mobile cousins) ? Can the Navy (and it's contractors) use those wars as somehow requiring new types of combat ships or upgrades to the existing vessels ?

Drones are used (where they are today) for a variety of reasons but let's not forget they are less costly that manned aircraft in this usage. The munitions they carry are less costly than cruise missiles and their ilk. Who do you think carries more lobbying weight, Lockheed-Martin or General Atomic ?

The threat of war, or war-like actions against the US, stirs a lot of profit making spending. The actual fighting of wars ... not so much (to the big dogs).


RE: What?
By Wulf145 on 5/14/2013 4:40:43 AM , Rating: 2
"...shooting down Iranian fighters over international waters..." when did that happen?


RE: What?
By superflex on 5/14/2013 10:23:53 AM , Rating: 2
Jason is certainly an equal opportunity offender of all political parties.
I've come to respect Jason for at least having a spine for defending what he writes.
I've called him out many times and he usually never fails to reply with an honest reply. I may not agree, but he is stands tall.
I do disagree with some of his headlines which are blatant attempts at page views, but he's doing his job generating page clicks.


RE: What?
By BurnItDwn on 5/13/2013 12:29:38 PM , Rating: 2
That is scary.

I tend to be "party democrat" liberal, however, This is just terrible. You should ask these family members, what will happen when a republican or somebody they doesn't like comes to power? Whatever power Obama has now, the next guy's going to have too.

It starts with police on the side of the road doing warrant-less searches of people's cars. Then continues on to warrant-less wiretapping. And finally warrant-less drone killings.

What's next?


RE: What?
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/13/2013 2:23:40 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I tend to be "party democrat" liberal, however, This is just terrible. You should ask these family members, what will happen when a republican or somebody they doesn't like comes to power?
Naturally, that was my followup.

They then devolved into a diatribe about how yes, Republicans might abuse it, but that they "do what they want" regardless of the policy so that it made no difference. Followed by a rant on how the Republican party is trying to ruin the country and Obama is "trying to get the rich people to pay their fair share."

I know there's reasonable people on both sides of the aisle, my intention was not to blast "Party Democrats", but rather to suggest that there's unreasonable people (on both sides of the aisle) who baffingly see no harm in warrantless killing of Americans and other unconstitutional actions.

I do think that of people who identify themselves exclusively with one party, there is a tendency to make excuses for your party of choice's wrong-doing which is particularly problematic given both parties' sweeping corruption and attacks on the Constitution in today's federal politics.

Of course there's some good people who buck that trend like yourself (by the sound of it). :)


RE: What?
By mcnabney on 5/13/2013 3:10:16 PM , Rating: 1
Obama is pretty much doing the exact same thing with drones as Bush - let the CIA and DoD kill bad people in lawless lands that we don't want to invade.

You keep forgetting that drones have been in use since Clinton. They are just getting more press coverage because the Right can't seem to find anything else to complain about. The public has the same kind of fascination with drones as they did with our nuclear umbrella in the 80s and precision munitions and night vision in the 90s. Drones and stealth are the 'cool military toys' of the age.


RE: What?
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/13/2013 3:41:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Obama is pretty much doing the exact same thing with drones as Bush - let the CIA and DoD kill bad people in lawless lands that we don't want to invade
Do those "bad people" include civilians? If so, why is the Pentagon paying grief payments for these "bad people" (or "bad civilians"?) deaths?

And what about the drone strikes that have killed American citizens without warrant (this, to public knowledge has ONLY occurred under the Obama administration)??

And those problems aside, how to you justify the low success rate of drone strikes in taking out high-profile targets?
quote:
You keep forgetting that drones have been in use since Clinton. They are just getting more press coverage because the Right can't seem to find anything else to complain about.
No I'm not "forgetting" that. Yes Clinton used drones, but surely you're aware that the scope of that use (no matter how inappropriate) was far narrower (largely due to technology of UAVs rapidly progressing) than it has been over the last two administrations.

That said, I'm perfectly fine with sharing the responsibility with Clinton, I just don't see a lot of point mentioning his administration, given how limited drone strikes were during it.
quote:
The public has the same kind of fascination with drones as they did with our nuclear umbrella in the 80s and precision munitions and night vision in the 90s. Drones and stealth are the 'cool military toys' of the age.
I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with what the public thinks is "cool".

I think rather the military/intelligence community views them as a low cost tool to kill terrorists (and possibly Americans in an ambiguous context), if you factor out the cost of the high rates of collateral civilian casualties (as they have to a large extent) (and the problem of violating due process in the case of killing American citizens without warrant).

Plus there's doubtless pressure from large defense contractors like Raytheon and Boeing on members of Congress whose campaigns they donate to, to increase and support drone deployments. These companies can only sell the federal government so many jets and tanks; drones tend to be less problematic to produce than large war machines (ask Lockheed Martin) and represent a lucrative new business segment for these special interests.

Hence I see it as more of a lack of concern for due process/civilian casualties and a route to reward special interests that's driven the explosion in drone use.


RE: What?
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 5/13/2013 6:44:49 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Do those "bad people" include civilians? If so, why is the Pentagon paying grief payments for these "bad people" (or "bad civilians"?) deaths?

Just because the media reports these people as civilians, it doesn't mean that is the case. It's never good when real civilians are killed, but it is unavoidable. The fact that the civilian casualty rate is so low and we have cleaned out most of the top people in these organizations I'd say it has been a resounding success. As for the Pakistani court pressing this, get real. Those guys have been bowing to pressure from militants ever since Musharraf was ousted. His strict military regime only somewhat kept them in line, with him gone they pretty much have their run of the country and the politicians. If Pakistan wants to cut ties to the US, by all means let them. It will be a rather large cost savings for the US.


RE: What?
By Reclaimer77 on 5/13/2013 6:56:04 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah remember under Bush our media was simply taking the casualty numbers from Al Jazeera, anything but unbiased, and reporting to Americans that we're over there killing "millions" of civilians.

Give me a break. We're over there bending over backwards to avoid civilian casualties, to the point of causing more of our own soldiers deaths than there otherwise would be. I haven't seen rules of engagement this convoluted and politically driven since Vietnam.

There's never been a conflict this major in the history of armed combat that's resulted in so few civilian casualties. Especially considering it's sometimes impossible to identify the civilians from the insurgents.


RE: What?
By maugrimtr on 5/14/2013 8:40:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I know there's reasonable people on both sides of the aisle, my intention was not to blast "Party Democrats", but rather to suggest that there's unreasonable people (on both sides of the aisle) who baffingly see no harm in warrantless killing of Americans and other unconstitutional actions.


There's always enough morons to go around and both parties are enthusiastic in exploiting their share. Republicans have politicians following the NRA's moronic arguments and ignoring the will of the people. The Democrats have managed to switch from going nuts over warrantless eavesdropping to being its firmest proponents keen to expand these unconstitutional powers by making companies/themselves immune to legal suits and therefore doing a fine job of avoiding the Supreme Court.

Both parties' greatest trick was to take ever more extreme positions, treat them as their normal beliefs, and divide a nation - or was that the media's intent? I think we quit talking about people and instead blame stereotypes now. Since I support EVs, I might get labelled a "socialist" for my "liberal environmental" insanity despite being strongly aligned to conservative economics which gets me labelled as the opposite by other people.

quote:
There's never been a conflict this major in the history of armed combat that's resulted in so few civilian casualties. Especially considering it's sometimes impossible to identify the civilians from the insurgents.


It's also why winning these wars isn't really possible. The bad guys are now only rarely an actual army. If their own people will not control them, nobody can. Ideas, even stupid ones, can't be assassinated.


RE: What?
By jeepga on 5/13/2013 5:53:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Yup, I've broached the topic with certain Obama-obsessed "Party Democrat" family members and they argued it was fine (I kid you not) because "the Constitution is outdated" in their opinion, and they believe Obama would never abuse that unchecked power and that "we live in a scary world today where people want to kill Americans (so warrantless deathstrikes are necessary)."


I validate this. I know plenty of people personally that hold this view point. And no manner of information will sway them. The word "some" might be too strong. But, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority hold that whatever the president does is peachy.


RE: What?
By boobo on 5/13/2013 9:17:10 PM , Rating: 2
Vic Mackey for president?


RE: What?
By ClownPuncher on 5/14/2013 2:32:16 PM , Rating: 2
And to think; you used to be a Progressive. It adds some perspective when you talk to people who are willing to give up any and all liberties for talking points.


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