Drones make me ashamed to be British, how can they be happening?
Then this clip from Democracy Now discusses the film with excerpts:-
They also discuss a Pakistani family, the family Rehman, whose grandmother was killed in an open field by a drone strike, the two grandchildren were injured. They were invited to congress to be heard, only 5 representatives out of 535 members attended – but this apparently is good. The clip cut short but there is additional 5 minutes here.
Earlier in the year Democracy Now discussed a leaked report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism; for accurate info on the results of drone attacks goto the Bureau of Investigative Journalism website.
I first discussed drones here, but this blog started with my interest in Malala and asking questions. Will this family get the same publicity as Malala? Malala sits down with Obama, and this family meets 5 from congress!! Is this an indication of propaganda?
Posts Tagged ‘drones’
In this post I began asking questions about Malala Yousafzai. With minimal response there were two distinct positions, on facebook some Middle East contacts liked what I had to say, and I offended a western intellectual who felt he had the right to support her irrespective. I don’t find either reactions surprising. People in the Middle East have lived their lives amidst war, and are under tremendous threat from the Nato alliance – the corporatocracy’s armed wing. Whilst these people would defend the right for women to be educated, they understand that these things are never straightforward. Miseducation in the West promotes rights above all else – even though their governments do not practice these rights, intellectual ideals, so you often find westerners who promote idealism despite the consequences – see tag cloud intellectual.
I am very ignorant of the situation in that area, shamefully so when you consider that there is a British presence in Afghanistan. For me wars are concerned with increasing profits for the MIC, but what is the “democratic” justification for the war in Afghanistan. I have some vague notion that it is connected with the Taliban, but the reasoning is so confused it is hard to discern a NATO position. Equally so what is the justification for the illegal drone strikes in Pakistan? There is never legal justification for drones anywhere, but why partciularly in Pakistan?
In this article from Al Jazeera, a Pakistani Taliban leader has been killed in a drone strike. It was reported by Pakistani sources but at this time I cannot find an official statement from Washington. (Here is further Guardian info.) There is no outcry as apparently it is accepted that he has been responsible for killing CIA people – this apparently is an atrocity, whilst any killing is atrocious it cannot be more atrocious than the murder of Pakistani civilians by drones. It is my understanding that the CIA involvement is to provide the intelligence that is given to the presidential office who then issues the instructions to kill. If you are an organisation defending against drone strikes, cutting off the intelligence has got to be a legitimate target.
Are the Taliban such a legitimate defensive organisation? The answer appears to be no. You will note repeated use of the word “appears” in this blog because nothing is clear.
Here is how I read the situation – for info search wiki using Taliban. In Pakistan the Taliban come from the Pashtun tribe who live in what is known as Pashtunistan. They have a traditional code they follow called Pashtunwali – search wiki using Pashtunwali. This is a code of a traditional rural mountainous people, and western liberalism would not empathise with such codes.
Here is a description from the same wiki of one of the Pashtunwali principles:-
“Nanawatai (asylum) – Derived from the verb meaning to go in, this refers to the protection given to a person against his or her enemies. People are protected at all costs; even those running from the law must be given refuge until the situation can be clarified. This was demonstrated recently when Osama bin Laden was provided special protection by a group of Pashtuns in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but when it became clear that he was involved in terrorist activities, other Pashtuns helped the United States to get to him.”
Whilst the NATO alliance might not consider this a good practice it is moral, and far better than NATO justice with Osama bin Laden’s final scenario in which no body was recovered and no trial was held.
Here is a map of Pashtunistan:-
What can be clearly seen from the map is that an arbitrary boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan has divided the Pashtun people; there is no difference between Afghan and Pakistani Pashtun. If there is a US attack against Pashtun in Afghanistan that would also be signalled as an attack against the Pashtun in Pakistan.
In this quote from wiki-Taliban:-
“While in power [BZ – in Afghanistan], it [BZ – the Taliban] enforced its strict interpretation of Sharia law, and leading Muslims have been highly critical of the Taliban’s interpretations of Islamic law. The Taliban were condemned internationally for their brutal treatment of women. The majority of the Taliban are made up of Pashtun tribesmen. The Taliban’s leaders were influenced by Deobandi fundamentalism, and many also strictly follow the social and cultural norm called Pashtunwali.”
As well here is a talk on the Real News network in which the pundit says that the Taliban are fighting for their right to establish their version of Sharia law (Sharia law is discussed below):-
In this article the writer sees a deadlock as long as the US remain in Afghanistan. And whilst there are drone strikes against the Taliban how can that deadlock be broken? What is the US strategy for winning? Is there one, do they actually want to win?
It seems to me that Afghanistan is like the Israeli war against Palestine, an ongoing fact of life in which expansion of territories, the war itself and all the family tragedies are the reasons for its continuance. Neither the situation in Palestine nor Afghanistan can be resolved on the ground as there is nothing to resolve there, they are wars created for profit and political reasons. On the ground what are they fighting for?
Let’s examine the issue of Sharia Law, a key question when it comes to the Taliban. It is difficult to put a handle on Sharia Law. There is one positive compared to western law, and that is that it is based on the Quran; so unlike western law it has a moral basis. What base does western law have? The bidding of the corporatocracy?
But beyond this it gets very messy to discern what Sharia Law is. Apart from being based on the Quran it is also based on legal decisions made by previous judges, the same process as western law. Over the centuries this has built a huge amount of legal precedent. I cite a number of references (1, 2, 3 and search wiki – sharia law), and you can decide how much of them you want to read. There have been a number of legal schools over the years as well as all the precedents so sharia law is a huge morass of legislation. Such a precedent-based system is open to abuse, much like Citizens’ United. Custom and practice dictates what laws are actually used in individual countries. Having lived in 2 Islamic countries (with western sympathies at the time) I perceived the sharia law as being what the country accepted, in my case Bahraini sharia law and Omani sharia law; they were the laws of the land. In neither country did I see people with severed limbs (1999-2002). I did see two societies in which people were generally peaceful. I saw no street crime; in Oman I saw people going to the supermarket, and leaving the car open with the engine running so that they could leave the aircon on in the heat. It was understood that both countries were dictatorships. When I arrived in Bahrain I spoke to a number of westerners who were happy to bring up their families because of the education and peacefulness. However Bahrain was rocked that year (2002) because of the renewal of Israeli hostilities against Palestine; Bahrain was a major US airbase. This demonstrated underlying tensions which erupted a few years later in the Arab Spring.
Where does this leave me in understanding the Taliban? It seems to be generally accepted that the sharia law the Taliban are looking for is similar to the legal framework they established when in power in Afghanistan:-
Go to 1.34 in this clip (shown above). What this Taliban law actually is I am unsure but my perception of it is that there are draconian laws especially those governing women. It is not sharia law itself that has to be so draconian, it appears that it is the particular laws the Taliban wish to apply that are the problem, laws that may have been applied many centuries ago and laws they now want to use to create their oppressive regimes.
The Taliban version of sharia makes them an easy western target as few western intellectuals could possibly accept this oppression. So they are a good post-cold war enemy, a target western people would accept – much like the reds under the bed; oh the reds weren’t there. Being so unsympathetic it is easy to say they are not wanted, and it is easy to see westerners making the jump of disliking their priniples to accepting them as terrorist enemies. Here is a Guardian opinion on the Taliban.
In conclusion it appears to me that initially NATO, the corporatocracy stooges, blamed Al Qaeda for 9/11. They created a new enemy, the Muslim terrorist, and when there was less to blame on Al Qaeda they then started to blame the Taliban as the Taliban were fighting in defense of their own beliefs and their own people in Afghanistan. In that same Guardian opinion the writer clearly states that
“The Taliban leader accepted again a key US demand not to use Afghanistan as a base to threaten other countries. He denied the Taliban would seek to monopolise power and said the group favoured an “inclusive government run on Islamic principles”. This is all to the good, although this could also be the Taliban posing as the government in waiting, the same absolutist posture that sank the opening of its political office in Doha earlier this year.”
Such a statement makes it clear that the Taliban are religious intellectuals who have turned to violence to achieve their idealism in their particular areas. Because of some of their unacceptable principles (to me and to many westerners) they have become an easy terrorist target through propaganda.
Malala is a well spoken young woman who has been through great difficulty. She is expressing her opinion, and she has a right to do this so what is wrong?
When you begin to ask questions a whole can of worms opens up. Rather than examine why she is saying it for herself, ask why is she getting so much “air time”, why was she being put up for the Peace prize. And you start to see the hand of the drone wars. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report “Get the Data: Drone Wars”, the details on the Swat Valley are included in the following:-
Whether by intention or not Malala is promoting the message that the Taliban are active in the Swat Valley, and we need to do something – drones. Jon Stewart tends to present an anti-imperialist message, so “good-old-lefties” can watch when he breaks down:-
He begins by describing her as an advocate for girls’ education worldwide. Who can argue with that? What impression are we left with? This articulate young woman is heroic, and we must do what we can to protect her against the Taliban so drones are OK. Is that a conclusion that can be drawn?
Did the following get as much publicity? Read article.
A friend/ex-student, Ghada, put me onto this, it is a letter from a Taliban in an individual capacity asking her to return home and promote the interests of Muslim women. What do you make of that letter?
Malala’s publicity has been used by the Telegraph to promote fear of the Taliban in this article and those it references. Is this what she wanted?
My own knowledge of the situation is very limited but what is very clear to me is that the use of drones is wrong. With regards to this discussion that is the only thing that can be categorical, the use of drones is wrong. On everything else I am asking questions as people have the right to do. here is a clip from the Real News Network about drone deaths in Pakistan:-
Here is another question, is it morally correct to manipulate a 16-year-old for your own ends? Is Malala being manipulated to promote the use of drones?
This brings me to a wider point. I have recently criticised a tv series on socialism because it was produced by a neocon. I watched a bit of it, and it made me cringe but I did not offer an academic critique. Why would anyone interested in understanding the mass movement want to promote a neocon’s view? In this world of politics we have to be so careful with what we promote. If my word means anything I have to be careful what I circulate on the net or elsewhere.
On spiritual matters many people are equally blase – ill-considered. The Bhagwan and his followers were involved in criminal activities, so when he gets revamped as Osho, does that mean there is any less criminal involvement? Can anyone be sure that they will not be enticed by Osho’s words to drop from the Path – or follow the Bhagwan’s Path that included criminality?
I have discussed Sogyal and at the time I was greatly interested in him. But then I discover that there are many allegations of sexual misconduct taking advantage of vulnerable women who were seeking psychological counsel from him etc. I will not read his book or promote it again. Why? I cannot be sure I won’t be perversely influenced, I would hope not but I can’t be sure. But I can be sure there are genuine teachers around and I can study them. It is straight forward.
Be sure, don’t dabble.
When we share we are part of a publicity machine. It is essential we take responsibility for that part we promote. How many people who promoted the Malala-Jon Stewart clip would actually want to help promote the use of drones? Did their sharing actually help in such promoting? We all need to be so careful.
Drones concern me because of their heartlessness. With increasing technological advances the West is using weaponry that kills without risk to western life. When you believe like I do in John Stockwell’s Third World War:-
in the killing with impunity that occurred during this “war”, then drones are just a heinous extension. Third World peoples will be killed indiscriminately.
Here is the myth. Through intelligence gathered an individual can be targetted and killed by a drone and no-one else injured.
The practice is far from this.
Here is a report from Human Rights Watch as to how drones were used by the Israelis supposedly to target individual suicide bombers, “The total number of Gazan civilians killed by drone-launched missiles remains unclear. Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations-B’Tselem, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights-together reported 42 drone attacks that killed 87 civilians. Amnesty International told the media that it documented 48 civilian deaths from drones, and this does not represent the full number.”[p3].
The report gives details of “six Israeli drone strikes, which in total killed 29 civilians, eight of them children”.
Drone activity is prevalent in Pakistan, here is a report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and this graph shows strikes and deaths in Pakistan.
Now I make no claims to knowledge of so-called terrorist activity in Pakistan but I am certain that the number of deaths is far higher than the number of these supposed terrorists. But with drones if the US gets it wrong only Pakistanis really care, US people don’t have to care – US lives and votes are not lost.
These drones are becoming a more central part of the “War on Terror”, a response to a so-called act of terrorism. What can conceivably be “more terrorist” than sending drones into another country? Is the US/NATO at war with these countries? On what basis of law is it acceptable to send machines, sometimes fully-automated, to kill people who have not been tried in a court of law? The US President, or a hand-picked White House committee, decides that it is acceptable to kill some people, and that is enough. They claim it is based on intelligence but NATO went to war based on intelligence that there were WMD – Weapons of Mass Destruction, and found none. Prior to this Iraqi war many had claimed there was no viable intelligence, are the same organs of government to be trusted with determining the viability of “terrorists” as targets for drone attacks? Only this week (week of 2/10/11) one US citizen was killed without trial apparently by drones, how can this be acceptable in a civilised society?
Here are a couple of clips. The first shows a promotion video, and you can see the relief in the airman that drones mean he does not have to go into action. Who would not choose to sit in front of a computer screen instead of flying over enemy territory?
This second clip is much more frightening:-
It is a CBS interview (full transcipt can be found here) with an airman at the video control of a drone. On the screen you see figures walking and then a man “hot” ie he has just fired his gun. The airman shoots but it is not a bullet that clearly brings down the airman alone. There is some sort of explosion and the blast range is not clear from the camera angle. I suspect the interview is supposed to depict the scenario that with intelligence a particular terrorist having just fired a gun can be picked off by the drone. To me there is no evidence that this is what happens, because the blast radius is not clear. If it is not clear in a pre-arranged video, how much worse does it get in less controlled conditions? When you consider the difference between the apparent precision of promotional info and the affect of such a blast radius then you can accept these BUJ figures. I have no doubts at all that because of the drones people in Pakistan have become politicised, and are seeking the nearest US targets which are in Afghanistan. This is a clear example of policy creating terrorists. If your family is being bombed what do you do? Maybe there are some terrorists there but there are also terrorists in the US, indiscriminate killing is never acceptable.
To my satisfaction I have established that these drones are not as precise as the PR proclaims. Despite what is told the peoples of NATO countries, the scenario that intelligence can determine the identity of a particular terrorist and that a drone can be sent to kill them without hurting anyone else is a complete fallacy. This is why drones are so heinous, and the people who implement policy using them are seriously callous and heartless. And how much did this new reaper cost? $54 million, how much of that is profit? If I was inclined to build military machines I would have no hesitation in trying to promote their sales – and profits – MIC causing war.
Are drones “safe”? Even if you accept the lies about the precision, is the technology of drones actually safe? Here is a drone crash database. Is this evidence for their safety?
I have already stated that I consider responding to the drone attacks has contributed to the recent attacks in Afghanistan – as if further excuse was needed. This is part of a phenomenon that is being called blowback. A man’s family is killed by a drone supposedly targetting a terrorist. Is that man going to turn around and say it is acceptable that his family dies in response to 9/11? His first reaction is to lash out and fight back, this is a human reaction – not the action of a terrorist with a political motivation for destruction of the US leadership. This phenomenon of “chickens coming home to roost” is called blowback. When people argue that US foreign policy is creating terrorists it is hard to disagree. The reaction of the man wanting vengance for the death of his family is not the reaction of a terrorist but if his only recourse is to work with terrorists to seek vengance such a human reaction is understandable. Here is further discussion on drones and blowback by a Peace Studies lecturer. This article discusses the questionable legality of drone attacks. As a peace campaigner these arguments are moot, such killing for profit is never acceptable to me, but it is significant that the CFR are also concerned about the global isolation these killings are causing.
For further details on drones download pdf’s from this UK website, there is also campaigning info at the site.
What campaigning can be done? Occupy MOD, nice thought but a bit risky. Why not investigate the Drone Campaign Network UK?
Here is a news snippet (Democracy Now 21/9/2011):-
Bases are being built in Ethiopia and Seychelles for drone attacks on supposed Al Qaeda members in Somalia and Yemen, previous drones have also come form Djibouti.
Drones are planes that are not manned and kill people. Not the teacher.
Drones are planes that are not manned and kill people. Is he droning on?
Drones are planes that are not manned and kill people. Boring isn’t it?
Drones are planes that are not manned and kill people. Another drone attack on the news?
Drones are planes that are not manned and kill people. More dead but they are not us, and our airmen aren’t killed.
For the US “War for Profit” machine drones are ideal:-
Drones are expensive.
No Americans are killed.
Imagine if they had had drones the US would still be in Vietnam. OK there is no attempt here at analysis it is just the use of such machines to kill people is heinous. Landmines, they are nothing, just maim people and you have to go to all the expense and effort of planting them. Drones much better. you send out these machines and they kill people with no danger to any NATO countries.
Well that is not true. The more drones the more terrorists because what choice have these people got when machines are killing them. Target where the machines are being made. And where is that? So people defending themselves from drones become terrorists, and we have more “War on Terror”, thank you David Rockefeller (see quote at side of page).
Here is more informed information from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism about the deaths from drones in Pakistan.
Corroboration on the drones from RT. Check this RT clip:-
I then investigated the cost of the drones, someone had done so on wiki – go to wikipedia and type “General_Atomics_MQ-1_Predator”. It appears that all drones come from General Atomics, and here are the wiki figures:-
RQ-1 / MQ-1 Predator
Role Remote piloted, UAV
Unit cost is significant but the program cost is approx. US$2,400 million, money worth going to war for?
Do you believe that I am wrong about drones and the link between finance and war? In this article from Danger Room the writer describes how money has been allocated for drones that the DHS don’t want (in a time of financial crisis?). It shows the power of lobbies, in this case “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus,”