Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Drone Story Develops

Six weeks have passed since our first review of drone stories. The holiday presents have all been opened, the chocolate has all been eaten, and blythe winter has sealed us indoors, so there is no choice but to continue.

Dramatic civilian losses to missiles fired from drones in Yemen and Pakistan are driving a continuing story about how best the world should manage their usage. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution.

A stunning drone missile attack on a Yemen wedding party that missed a mid-level terrorist but killed 15 civilians is challenging Obama to implement his promise that civilians will not be attacked if at all possible. Apparently this man's death was worth 15 civilian lives.

Pakistani resistance is building, and an ongoing demonstration has been occasionally blocking the road through the Khyber Pass that our returning troops are using to bring munitions home.  The US Secretary of Defense told the Pakistan leader that he must make this resistance to drone killings by those who are even of another political party and totally not under his control, stop, or American aid to Pakistan would be suspended.

Military drones are becoming the norm. Every country will soon have them.

New story lines... 

The rules of war are not the reality:

Not being able to see whether a man walking across a field is carrying a gun or a shovel - that is the reality. Seeing a man with both legs blown off trying to crawl across a field to safety is the reality.

12/26/13    "A US drone fired two missiles on a militant compound, killing at least three suspected insurgents," a senior security official told AFP.

"The identities of those killed in the strike were not immediately known but officials suspect that they were of Afghan origin."

 "Suspected insurgents" says it all. We didn't know who they were. We suspected they came from Afghanistan. We didn't know their affiliation. Just suspected that they were insurgents because we suspected they came from Afghanistan. Because we suspected them, we killed them.

12/26/31   "... initial reports gathered from their agents in the field suggested the slain men were Arabs..."      Arabs... so we killed them. They fit the profile.They were not locals.

12/26/13  "... the bodies were charred beyond recognition.  And we don't know who they were...

12/29/13     "former U.S. Air Force analyst Heather Linebaugh, who has seen innocent women and children incinerated by Hellfire missiles and soldiers killed because of drone failures, writes"

A wedding party is assassinated:

12/12/13    Missiles fired by a U.S. drone slammed into a convoy of vehicles traveling to a wedding party in central Yemen on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, Yemeni security officials said today. 

12/12/13     "Fifteen people were killed and five more were wounded, according to Reuters. The initial press accounts indicate that all of those killed were civilians."

12/12/13     "At least 15 people are dead and five more were injured after an apparent U.S. drone strike missed its target and struck a wedding convoy in Yemen, according to reports from local officials... The intended target was a convoy of vehicles containing al-Qaida operatives, the officials said."

12/13/13    Drone strike in Yemen killed 17, mostly civilians:  "Two of the dead whose names were released -- Saleh al-Tays and Abdullah al-Tays -- had figured in the past on Yemeni government lists of wanted Al-Qaeda suspects. But most of those killed were civilian members of the Al-Tays and Al-Ameri clans headed to the wedding, according to the security official."
12/13/13     “The Americans came and told us, ‘You are sheltering the Taliban,’ and I told the Americans ‘Come inside and see for yourself, you are killing women and children,”‘ Jalil said. “After they saw that all the dead were civilians, they gave us permission to bury the bodies.”

12/13/13    Al Qaeda Gains Sympathy In Yemen As US Drone Strikes Wedding Party
    Asked if more people joined al Qaeda in the wake of attacks that killed civilians, Mohsen said: "Definitely. And even those who don't join, now sympathize with al Qaeda because of these strikes, these violations. Any American they see, they exact revenge, even if it's a civilian."

12/13/13     It's not the first time such a tragedy has struck the region. Late last year, a drone strike killed 12 villagers in a similar procession.

12/14/13    Yemen tribe demands apology for civilian drone deaths

12/15/13   Yemen’s parliament on Sunday called for a stop to drone attacks in a symbolic vote that reflected growing public anxiety about Washington’s use of the unmanned aircraft to combat al Qaeda in the impoverished country.

12/18/13     "I wonder how “near-certainty” the President was on Friday, December 13th, when a U.S. drone strike targeted a wedding convoy in Yemen’s al-Baitha province, killing 14 and injuring 22." 

"Imagine gathering for a quaint wedding in Northern Virginia on a picturesque farm, all of your loved ones gathered in celebration, only to have your wedding party slaughtered by a drone from Pakistan. We react with hysteria when a lone gunman starts shooting in a public place. Imagine our vitriolic response to repeated attacks on weddings by foreign enemies."

"Some of the things his follow-on reporters missed: bloodied children’s shoes and skirts, bloodied school books, the scalp of a woman with braided grey hair, butter toffees in red wrappers, wedding decorations."

12/19/13     "Images from local media surfaced last week on Facebook and in other social media showing what were described as the graphic consequences of a drone-fired missile strike on a convoy that was part of a wedding party in a remote area of Yemen."

12/20/13     "... have said the target of a deadly drone strike that hit a wedding convoy and killed 15 people in Yemen earlier this month was a mid-level al-Qaeda leader. ...  Two US and one Yemeni official, speaking to Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity on Friday, said that Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani was wounded and escaped the December 12 air strike.

The officials described al-Badani as the leader behind a bomb plot that briefly closed 19 US diplomatic posts across Africa and the Middle East earlier this year."

So in order to kill a fellow who put together a bomb plot that never set off a bomb, we killed 15 nearby civilians and wounded 22 more. Our target was only wounded, and survives to frighten us again someday with another threatened bomb plot.

12/27/13    Fatal error in ‘wedding party’ drone strike prompts UN condemnation

Protests in Pakistan:

11/29/13   "Oil tanker companies, which have been unable to use the KP route into Afghanistan, are now threatening to “cut off” KP’s shipments if the demonstrations against the drones don’t end within 72 hours."    That is to say, they threaten to honor the picket line.

12/08/13    Sit-ins against NATO supply lines to continue

12/10/13    ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Monday that US drone strikes were "counter-productive" as Washington pushed for supply routes to Afghanistan to be kept open.

12/12/13   U.S. Secretary of Defense Hagel threatens to cut $1.6 bln in Pakistan aid because drone protests are blocking NATO convoys...

12/09/13    "It is not lost on the Pakistanis, either, that the drone protests are a direct result of the US twice reneging on promises to end the strikes, once assassinating a Taliban leader less than 24 hours before the peace talks, then attacking a religious school on the planned first day of protests, adding a lot of fuel to the fire."

12/21/13 The Pakistan National Assembly unanimously asks the US to stop drone attacks in the tribal areas.

12/26/13  The Khyber Pass supply route to Afghanistan is still blocked by anti-drone protests

12/28/13     Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam addressing weekly briefing strongly condemned Wednesday’s drone strike by the United States in Miran Shah and said these should be stopped.  She said these strikes are violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The UN General Assembly votes:

12/18/13     The UN General Assembly passed a resolution on Dec 18 2013 calling on states using drone strikes as a counter-terrorism measure to comply with their obligations under international law and the UN Charter. 

12/20/13     It is the first that the General Assembly has spoken out on the use of armed drones - a key but controversial component of the US war against terrorism, including against targets in Pakistan. In this regard, the Assembly underscored the "urgent and imperative" need for an agreement among member states on legal questions about drone operations

12/20/13     Pakistan UN Ambassador Masood Khan said on Friday that US drone strikes on Pakistani territory not only violate the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also international law.
12/24/13     UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday reaffirmed his stand that the use of remotely controlled aircraft must be regulated and controlled by the terms of international law. 

12/26/13     U.N. experts urge U.S., Yemen to explain erroneous drone strikes

Afghan drone missile attacks may kill any continuing security agreement:

11/30/2013   Afghan anger over one such raid last week led Mr. Karzai to insist on a ban, and he has said he will not sign the long-term security agreement with the United States until such operations are definitively over.

Drones around the world:

12/03/13   The UN mission in Democratic Republic of Congo has started to deploy unarmed surveillance drones to monitor rebel activity near the forested borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

12/07/13    Drone captures unique aerial video of enormous protest in Thailand
 ...  Watch the video!

12/17/13    Jonathan launches first Nigerian built drone

12/18/13   First ever Royal Navy drone launched in £30million mission to stop Somali pirates
12/18/13   Lebanese say Israeli drone violated southern airspace  
     Border patrol may be drones' eventual role in the universe.

Drones in Africa are flown from Germany:

12/11/13    Secret U.S. drone bases in Germany revealed  "There’s no war in Germany. But where the U.S. army and intelligence agencies once protected the West during the Cold War, they now lead a worldwide secret war."   The U.S. drone war in Africa is controlled from U.S. bases in Germany.

Every country will have its drones:

Offloading the task of flying the drones and targeting the victims to the host country solves a lot of political problems:  In Iraq, drones will be locally managed.  

New and wonderful consumer uses for drones:

12/04/13     "Amazon PrimeAire" - delivery of products by quadracopter drone - is near at hand. By 2015, customers will be able to order a used book from Amazon and then just open the window.  A strange bird will fly in and deposit the book on the table. A Forbes columnist thinks it will work.

                              Watch the drone deliver a package! 

12/20/13     The "Mistletoe Drone" hangs its mistletoe in the air above potential lovers until they kiss:
Mistletoe Drone Is A Drone Everyone Could Support

12/25/13   The "Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition" is a stocking-stuffer with wings... 

12/22/13   Ohio Schools are making plans to train students in the soon-to-be-booming drone industry.

The war on drones:

Drones are the new bulls-eye. A splendid moving target.
12/06/13    A Zombie Drone That Hunts, Controls, and Kills Other Drones.  Vicious. Then it sucks their electricity...

"How fun would it be to take over drones, carrying Amazon packages... or take over any other drones and make them my little zombie drones," Kamkar asked rhetorically in a blog post published Monday. "Awesome."

12/12/13    Welcome to HEL: U.S Army developing drone-killing laser weapon

12/14/13   "Taliban militants claim they have shot down a US drone in southeastern Afghanistan, Press TV reports."

12/22/13   Naming the victims:    Emran Feroz is about to start up a website listing the names of every single person killed by a drone strike anywhere in the world.


12/03/13     "U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries may be militarily effective, but they are killing innocent civilians in a way that is obscene and immoral. I’m afraid that ignoring this ugly fact makes Americans complicit in murder."

Views of the future:

12/12/13    Here is a truly great sci fi video of images taken by drone about a possible drone-ish police state that may be here tomorrow. It's a wonderful creation, and shows how art can enrich a discussion about man's future. It left me feeling good:

        Our Drone-Controlled Future Looks Like A Video Game

12/12/13    No warrant needed!  Here are the FBI's internal guidelines for warrantless drone surveillance,

12/24/13     Drone strikes are the new normal  You just get used to it...

12/14/13     (according to this graph) drone strikes in 2013 were greatly reduced   No big deal...

12/13/13    Galloping drone warhorses.  A nightmare scenario.  Pleasant dreams. 
May you be happy and free from suffering!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Drones In Trouble Today

There are several story lines about drones developing in the news these days.

They are robotic.

02/21/13 bb      Drones toss and catch inverted pendulum

You can make your own drone, but you can't arm it.

04/12/13 bb   Nano Quadcopter open source tiny drone kit

Iran captured a drone back in 2011 and has now replicated it.

12/16/2011 y        Iran may have captured U.S. stealth drone by hacking its GPS
10/21/13 g    Iran gives Russia copy of US ScanEagle drone as proof of mass production
"US spy drone given to prove Iran's forces have mass produced the drone they claim to have captured a year ago..."

Civilians are being killed:

03/15/13 bij    Pakistan government says ‘at least 400 civilians’ killed in drone strikes

04/23/13 sen    The Senate Judiciary Committee discusses "Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing”    Chairman Durbin to preside.

Civilian losses are worse than military gains:

10/11/13 mccl      Malala Yousafzai tells Obama drones are 'fueling terrorism'

Targeting is not precise:

04/09/13 mccl    Obama’s drone war kills ‘others,’ not just al Qaida leaders
"Information, according to one U.S. intelligence account, indicated that Badruddin Haqqani, the then-No. 2 leader of the Haqqani network, would be at a relative’s funeral that day in North Waziristan. Watching the video feed from a drone high above the mourners, CIA operators in the United States identified a man they believed could be Badruddin Haqqani from the deference and numerous greetings he received. The man also supervised a private family viewing of the body.
Yet despite a targeting process that the administration says meets “the highest possible standards,” it wasn’t Badruddin Haqqani who died when one of the drone’s missiles ripped apart the target’s car after he’d left the funeral.

It was his younger brother, Mohammad.

Friends later told reporters that Mohammad Haqqani was a religious student in his 20s uninvolved in terrorism; the U.S. intelligence report called him an active member – but not a leader – of the Haqqani network. At least one other unidentified occupant of his vehicle perished, according to the report."

Read more here:
08/01/13bij     Drone strikes in Pakistan - Bureau investigation finds fresh evidence of CIA drone strikes on rescuers.  "Double tapping" it is called. 
The struggle against targeted killing by drone has been going on for a while:

07/15/2011 gu   Campaigners Seek Arrest of Former CIA Legal Chief over Pakistan Drone Attacks
"UK human rights lawyer leads bid to have John Rizzo arrested over claims he approved attacks that killed hundreds of people"
 10/23/13 jc     Rights Groups: Some US Drone Strikes are War Crimes
"... it is hard to believe that a group of labourers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States."

Read more here:
10/25/13 aw   US Dismisses UN Criticism, Insists Drone Strikes ‘Just’

10/29/13 aw     "She Was Exploded to Pieces" Survivors of Drone Strike in Pakistan Testify to Members of Congress
“I am a human being,” Rafiq Rehman told the Huffington Post. “I just came here to speak the truth and I want people to know that I have children who have been injured." 
 10/31/13 r    As drone victims testified to Congress, Obama met the arms company which makes missiles for drones

The government is covering its tail:

03/08/13 du      Air Force erases drone strike data amid criticisms

The UN is beginning to look at civilian casualties:

10/18/13 bij       US must release data on civilian drone casualties, says UN report

10/30/13 jc    Pakistani family testifies to empty room on Hill about US Drone that killed Granny

11/01/13 to      "These Drones Attack Us and the Whole World Is Silent":  New Film Exposes Secret US War
"The film opens with the story of a 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, who was killed by a drone just days after attending an anti-drone conference in Islamabad."

 Civilians are killed by pot-shots done for target practice

11/04/13 fp   Teenagers Are Droned, And a Family Cries Out

 "The U.S. says it was hunting militants on August 8. The dead boys' brother has a different story."

"There Shall Be No Peace Talks" says the CIA...
11/02/13 jc    CIA Drone Kills Pakistan Taliban Leader on Eve of Peace talks with Islamabad
"This context for the drone strike has to raise the question of whether John Brennan, head of the CIA, is deliberately attempting to forestall Pakistan-TTP peace talks and is determined to prevent Nawaz Sharif and Obama from cementing a strong relationship. Pakistani officials are talking about a ‘sabotaging’ of the talks."

11/04/13 aw      Afghan and Pakistani Govts United in Criticism of US Drone Strike - Peace Talks Stalled More Or Less Permanently 

11/08/13 to    Drone Strike Served CIA Revenge, Blocked Pakistan's Strategy

People seek an end to drone warfare.

11/10/13 oen      50 Organizations Seek Ban on Armed Drones
These organizations back the campaign to ban weaponized drones:
Alaskans For Peace and Justice
Arlington Green Party
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Brave New Foundation
Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases
Christians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East
Code Pink
Drone Free Zone
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
Granny Peace Brigade-NY
Hoosiers for Peace and Justice
Indiana Anti-Drone Project
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Jeannette Rankin Peace Center
LA Laborfest
Montrose Peace Vigil
National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Nevada Desert Experience
The Northampton Committee to Stop War
On Earth Peace
Peace of Mind Project
People United for Peace of Santa Cruz County (PUP)
Santa Cruz Against Drones (SCAD)
Simple Gifts Inc.
Sitkans for Peace and Justice
United for Peace and Justice
Veracity Now
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace Chapter 10
Veterans For Peace Chapter 27
Veterans For Peace Chapter 91
Veterans For Peace Chapter 154
Veterans For Peace, Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter, Baltimore, MD
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
War Resisters League
Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice
West Suburban Faith-based Peace Coalition
Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)
Women Standing
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, U.S. Section
World Can't Wait
Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament"

Drone Watch

I spent years trying to help a friend pull an emotional thorn out of his hand. Finally I discovered that the thorn that was hurting him was growing from his hand. He was born in pain. He lived in pain so he could know he was living. He caused pain.

Drones that kill are such a thorn. They hurt the sender and the recipient. They inspire retaliation. Their use is not clean.

Last spring, in a speech on May 23rd at the National Defense University, President Obama said that the military is becoming more and more obsolete and that it is being replaced by the NSA and drones, which accomplish the same goals at a fraction of the cost.

A week later, the Snowden material began to be released, and the NSA was no longer a secret. The NSA became an object to be investigated. Its compromise of our liberty may not be worth the extra security it brings. In recent weeks, America's use of drones has been similarly targeted. Drones have flaws. They hurt people we don't want to hurt.

Perhaps the saddest result of drone warfare is that a drone-fired missile kills not only the individual who is targeted, it kills everyone around him as well. Civilians are killed.

There are growing calls to end the use of drones. Targeted killings by the military are beginning to undercut the efforts of the State Department to make peace. The deaths of people who are blithely killed by desk jockeys playing a computer game in a country far away cause damage to our greater effort.

Just as the flow of news about the NSA is reining in their excesses, so may the story of America's self-destructive use of drones rein in the excesses of targeted killing. Here is a blog about drones that I just started, something to collect links to the unfolding story. It is called   The Thorn Of Drones.

I hope that peaceful means can serve to make a more peaceful world. Killing by drone is not a peaceful means. It does not bring peace.

(cross-posted with the Peaceful Freedom blog. ~dms)