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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 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.


"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA














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