Tag Archive | United States

Drone Facts

I have had a few postings on the topic of drones — a topic that I feel to be very important. CODEPINK has a very good Fact Sheet on the topic that I think is worth reposting:

What is a drone?

A drone, or “unmanned aerial vehicle” (UAV), is an unmanned aircraft that can be piloted remotely. Drones vary in size and weight and can be used for surveillance and attacks.

Where is the U.S. sending drones?

The U.S. uses drones primarily in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, but has also used drones in military campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

What damage can a drone do? Signature strikes & double taps

Depending on the model of the drone, a drone such as a Reaper can carry thousands of pounds of payloads which result in high collateral damage. Predator drones have a less of a collateral impact, but the Hellfire missiles are lethal for the target.

Signature strikes occur when targets are killed based on suspicion. If someone appears to be engaging in “suspicious behavior,” such as associating with a “suspected militant,” carrying a weapon. Any behavior the U.S. deems “suspicious” can justify a signature strike.

A “double tap” occurs when a second drone strike follows the initial strike which results in the murder of those who may have rushed to the scene to understand what has happened, search for survivors, or assist the injured.

Who is the U.S. targeting?

The U.S. targets militants and suspected militants, especially al-Qaeda and its affiliates. However, the U.S.’ targets reflect a major problem of racial profiling, resulting in the murder of many innocent or low-level affiliates who are primarily young Muslim men.

Who approves the kill list?

CIA director John Brennan passes the list to President Obama who must approve every drone strike.

How accurate are drone strikes?

The accuracy rate for hitting the intended target is approximately 1.5-2%. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that 98% of victims of drone strikes are “collateral damage,” or in more human terms, civilians, children, or suspected militants who are either minor, low-level affiliates or whose involvement with militants has never been proven.

How many casualties have there been?

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that nearly 4,000 total casualties have resulted from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. As many as 954 have been civilians, and as many as 225 have been children. The high number of casualties includes anyone who the U.S. deems suspicious, which could mean they were driving suspected militants, attending a funeral of a suspected militant, or carrying a weapon.

Have there been American citizens killed by drone strikes?

Four American citizens have been killed by drone strikes. Anwar al-Awlaki, who was affiliated with al-Qaeda, and Samir Khan, were killed by a strike in 2011. A second strike killed al-Awlaki’s innocent 17-year-old son. In 2002, Ahmed Hijazi was killed. All of these victims were American citizens living in Yemen.

Are drone strikes a violation of international law?

The United Nations has stated that the U.S. use of drone strikes in Pakistan violates international law and is a threat to human rights not only because of the mass casualties drones strikes cause but also because the Pakistani government does not consent with the drone strikes. The UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson, released a statement expressing that the Government of Pakistan “considers US drone strikes to be counter-productive, contrary to international law, and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed by U.S. Congress in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, legally empowers the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force” to pursue those responsible for acts of terrorism.

Preemptive self-defense violates international law, which states that nations may defend themselves against an immediate attack, but signature strikes and double taps do not attack those who pose an immediate threat. Rather, signature strikes target individuals who fit a profile, and double taps eliminate rescuers and other innocent people who rush to the scene of the first attack.

International human rights law does not allow the use of Hellfire missiles because their heavy fire power exceeds the limits of fire power allowed for law enforcement purposes, according to the American Society of International Law.

Do drones make us safer?

The justification for drone strikes is that they target “terrorists” and protect Americans and the citizens on the ground, when in reality these attacks result in high casualties, tarnish the United States’ reputation, and fuel retaliation. Drone strikes violate national sovereignty, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly condemned the use of drone strikes in Pakistan. In general drones foster anti-American sentiment abroad and threaten our national security as well as the safety of those living in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Who are the Unmanned Systems Caucus?

The Unmanned Systems Caucus supports the rapid development, acquisition, and use of drones. The representatives that comprise the caucus are listed below:

Co-Chairs:

Buck McKeon (CA-25)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)

Members:

Rob Bishop (UT-1)
Anne Marie Buerkle (NY-25)
Robert Brady (PA-1)
Mo Brooks (AL-5)
Madeleine Bordallo (Guam)
Larry Bucshon (IN-6)
Ken Calvert (CA-44)
André Carson (IN-7)
Tom Cole (OK-4)
Mike Conaway (TX-11)
Gerald Connolly (VA-11)
Joe Courtney (CT-2)
Kevin Cramer (ND-At-Large)
Ander Crenshaw (FL-4)
Blake Farenthold (TX-27)
Randy J. Forbes (VA-4)
Trent Franks (AZ-2)
Paul Gosar (AZ-1)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI-1)
Richard Hanna (NY-24)
Andy Harris (NY-24)
Vicky Hartzler (MO-4)
Joe Heck (NV-3)
Duncan Hunter (CA-52)
Darrell Issa (CA-49)
Lynn Jenkins (KS-2)
William Keating (MA-10)
Doug Lamborn (CO-5)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2)
Frank Lucas (OK-03)
Kevin McCarthy (CA-22)
Michael T. McCaul (TX-10)
Candice Miller (MI-10)
Pete Olson (TX-22)
Steven Palazzo (MS-04)
Steve Pearce (NM-02)
Mike Pompeo (KS-4)
Scott Rigell (VA-4)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46)
Thomas Rooney (FL-16)
Loretta Sanchez (CA-47)
Mike Simpson (ID-2)
David Schweikert (AZ-6)
Michael R. Turner (OH-3)
Joe Wilson (SC-2)
Robert J. Wittman (VA-1)
Don Young (AK-At-Large)

Does the U.S. use drones domestically?

Domestic drone use is currently limited to surveillance along the nation’s borders and within a few states, such as Texas and Florida. In February of 2013, the U.S. sent surveillance drones into Mexico to gather information about drug trafficking. The restrictions currently in place are due to concerns about air safety and infringement of  privacy. The push for drone use within the United States is strong, and drones manufacturers are considering the option of drones that would fire rubber bullets and spray tear gas to assist law enforcement.

How does drone surveillance violate the Fourth Amendment?

Because surveillance drones have thermal and x ray imaging capabilities, they are extremely pervasive. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, and surveillance drone technology violates those rights.

Is there a pro-drone lobby?

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) is the largest pro-drone lobby. Their membership exceeds 7,500, and their vision, as listed on their website, reads, “To improve humanity by enabling the global use of robotic technology in everyday lives.” They function to organize conventions, fund student competitions that encourage an interest in robotics and technology, and release publications that concern drone technology. Their work emphasizes the technological significance of drones but fails to mention the near 4,000 civilian casualties of drone wars.

Who are the top drones manufacturers?

Top profiteers of the U.S.’s billions spent on drones include Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, AeroVironment, Prox Dynamics AS, Denel Dynamics, SAIC, Israeli Aerospace Industries, Textron, General Dynamics, DJI.

Predator and Reaper drones are built by San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a sister company to General Atomics. The drone factory is located about 25 miles northeast from the main headquarters in Poway, CA. Between 1998-2003 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems had won over $980,000,000 in defense contracts. General Atomics is a leading company in a multitude of high-tech resources giving generously to both Democrats and Republicans. In 2008, the General Atomics PAC spent $173,800 contributing to the Democrats and $211,300 to the Republicans.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune article “Prowling for Profit,”the Predator and Reaper generally cost $4 million to $12 million each. The U.S. Defense Appropriations FY2010 key investments included $489 million for 24 new Reaper drones.The upcoming U.S. Defense Appropriations FY2011 includes: $2.2 billion for procurement of Predator-class aircraft to increase the Combat Air Patrols (CAPs) available to deployed forces from 37 to 65 by 2013; and doubling procurement of the MQ-9 Reaper over the next few years.

What Senate Committees deal with the drones issue?

The Senate Judiciary Committee consists of 18 members who have jurisdiction over issues of federal criminal law in addition to issues of human rights, immigration law, intellectual property rights, antitrust law, and internet privacy. The Senate Judiciary Committee handles issues of drone policy and laws.

What is President Obama’s stance on drone strikes?

President Obama has defended the controversial use of drone strikes. He stated in his address on May 23, 2013, on U.S. drone and counterterror policy that drones are an essential component of national security. However, his administration continually stresses the effectiveness of the program, when, in reality, drones have an accuracy rate of 1.5-2%, have resulted in a few thousand civilian casualties, and serve to radicalize drone strike survivors against the United States.

Israel and drones

As far back as 1982 Israel used drones against Syria. In the early nineties Israelis drones were us in the Kosovo campaign. The Israeli Air Force invades the skies over Lebanon and patrols occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza with drones. Twenty-nice civilians, including eight children were killed in what appeared to be six missiles by drones in Gaza. In Beirut, Lebanon an Israeli drone fired and killed at least 6 civilians and wounding 16. Israel refuses to confirm whether it is using armed drones over Gaza.

Israel ranks second after the United States in the development and possession of drones, according to those in the industry. As the drones get bigger and move advanced the more expensive they become. Small drones cost tens of thousands of dollars. Big drones are hugely expensive. Some costs as much as $60 million. Elbit Systems Ltd and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd are the two manufacturers making the deadly drones — Heron TP/Eitan and Hermes 450. Between 2009-2018 the U.S. is scheduled to give Israel 30 billion dollars in military aid. The Israeli Air Force since at least 2005 have been training many operators and maintainers.

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For more from CODEPINK on drones, see DonesWatch.org and posts tagged “drones” in their blog, PINKtank  I note that CODEPINK and others, including The Nation magazine , have just hosted a successful summit on drones called, DRONES AROUND THE GLOBE: PROLIFERATION AND RESISTANCE, in Washington, DC at George Washington University.

I Declare World Peace, Not Drones.

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Drones versus Christ’s Love

Back in August, I posted here an entry concerning drones strikes and Christian just war theory. Since then, the Christian evangelical progressive community, Sojourners, has posted in their blog, Drone Watch, another view in a piece called, Has Drone Firepower Conquered Christ’s Love?, by Danny Mortensen.

It begins from a different perspective and with a different emphasis:

For centuries, followers of Jesus have wondered how they should relate to states and governments. Recent documents from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations bring such concerns to the fore, highlighting the cruel collateral damage of many of President Barack Obama’s personally ordered drone strikes — strikes that according to the president, are legal and in accord with international law, use technology that is precise and limit unnecessary casualties, eliminate people that are real threats, and prevent greater violence.

Rather than considering the humanity of our (perceived) enemies and seeking reconciliation and restorative justice, we default to catching and killing. In doing so, we give the widest berth possible to Jesus’s teachings and examples of self-sacrificial enemy love. In both Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus tells us that to love our enemies is to be children of God, for radical love and kindness are his nature and his perfection. Loving enemies is essential to anyone who would claim God as his or her Father. Jesus said, “Love.” Not, “Love unless you happen to be the ones in charge and in possession of firepower. In that case, kill the bastards.”

We are charged with loving our world indiscriminately, self-sacrificially, and with great humility, and that should always inform our relationship with the state and government.

I Declare World Peace.

Peace Day Shout-out

On this International Day of Peace, Peace Day of 2013, I would like to give a special shout-out to the passionate peaceniks:

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CODEPINK, along with others, has worked hard to prevent a U.S. attack on Syria and so far has succeeded. CODEPINK has been working hard to Ground the Drones, i.e. stop U.S. drone attacks, and to Close Guantanmo, the infamous U.S. prison of the war of terror on terror.

CODEPINK began with a vigil in front of the White House on November 17, 2002, trying to prevent the U.S.-led War in Iraq. They didn’t succeed in that endeavor, but they have been a group working against war and for peace ever since.

CODEPINK defines itself as ” a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S. funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities.”  (See more here.) That last part of themselves is what they call their Bring Our War $$ Home campaign.

Visit their website,  check them out, get involved online and in action — both men and women.

Along with CODEPINK, I Declare World Peace.

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The Cry of the People

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Photo: Doctors in Fallujah, Iraq are registering hundreds of babies with severe birth defects, which they attribute to Depleted Uranium munitions and other war toxins. [Dr Samira Alani/Al Jazeera]*

 

My husband is rereading Reckoning with Apocalypse: Terminal Politics and Christian Hope by Dale Aukerman (Crossroad Publishing, 1993). He has pointed out to me a passage that quite moved me and pertains to our own world situation:

The Cry of the People

Jews in Palestine during the earthly ministry of Jesus were a subject people under the Roman overlordship. They had virtually no access to the central power of the Empire. The rule under which they lived came upon them from above. They did not have a participatory voice for choosing that rule or the rulers. Jewish collaborators took part as an elite that imposed roman authority, as well as their own, on the masses. That political situation seems quite remote from present-day democracy in the West.

Yet the most significant decision made by Roman authorities during the centuries of the Empire was that of crucifying Jesus of Nazareth, and, ironically, the local population did have a participatory voice in that decision. It was sort of direct democracy between the crowd and Pilate. Much Roman decision-making was oriented toward killing on behalf of the Empire, and the execution of Jesus was in line with that, even though Pilate, who alone had the requisite authority, drew back. But “the people,” incited by their leaders (Mt. 27:20), had their say, and Pilate went along with vox populi.

 When i gaze at photographs of Jews, especially children, being rounded up for Auschwitz, I try to comprehend  for those few something of the tragedy of it all. Anne Frank’s legacy is that of taking us past the incomprehensible numbers into the humanity of who she, a single victim, was. In Jerusalem the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust victims has a building dedicated to the children. At the entrance are a few photographs of haunting faces. And then inside, into the eerie darkness of mirrors and myriad dots of light is read in endless succession name after name, each intimating the unique, unfulfilled human person from among the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished. But for the slain Iraqi children and the hundreds of thousands who continue to die in the aftermath of the war and for the forty thousand children around the world who are given over needlessly to death each day we have no Anne Frank, no Yad Vashem, and hardly any pictures. These children and any who for us would visually represent them have been carefully kept from our view. There were the other Germans, among them Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Only he who cries out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants.” If we are not to have our own humanity effaced by the alluring powers of destruction and by the tidal inhumanity of official thought control, we must see those we are not meant to see and cry out for them.

Some in Jerusalem did not join in the cry, “Crucify him!” Luke pictures massive dissent before and after that execution: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him…. And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts (Lk. 23:27, 48). Offering continuation of that dissent, some in our time do not merge into the collective readiness to kill. They do not become functionaries for contemporary crucifixion. They withhold consent and live out their resistance to the purpose and deed of taking human life. What is most crucial is the stance: to see all public killing, from capital punishment to nuclear holocaust, as having its historic center in the execution of Jesus and to live life from him in struggle against all death-mongering.

At this moment:

#NoWarinSyria #DontBombSyria #HandsOffSyria

#NoDrones #StopDrones

#NoMoreWar

And always:

I Declare World Peace. (#IDWP)

  *See the article and photos of “Iraq: War’s Legacy of Cancer” by  Dahr Jamail at Al Jazeera here .

Just War, Drones, and Counterinsurgency

I am not a big proponent of  just war theory. I would much prefer Christian Gospel nonviolence and nonviolent resistance or struggle. However,  just war, to me, is over and above realpolitik or political realism. President Obama has said that he is a proponent of just war theory,

There is an article in the August 7 issue of The Christian Century magazine, “Discriminating Force: Just War and Counterinsurgency” by Daniel M. Bell that is worth noting. Bell, says The Century, teaches at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC and at the US Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS.

Here is an excerpt of that article:

In the context of counterinsurgency, drones may actually increase noncombatant risk insofar as they extend the range and opportunities for military strikes to places where otherwise there would be no such threat. In the absence of drone technology, the civilian populations of Waziristan or Yemen, for example would not be facing any attack. They would not not be targeted by an infantry division or by B-52’s. In this context, therefore, drones are decidedly not more discriminating than the alternative — which is no attack at all. When the alternative is not an invasion or carpet bombing, drones increase the risk of harm to noncombatants.

Furthermore, the fact that a weapon may be more discriminating does not mean that it is sufficiently discriminating. The noted military ethicist martin Cook has suggested that drones may be “tactically smart but strategically dumb.” The clear tactical advantage of being able to reach more bad guys while optimizing force protection is overridden by the damage such weapons do to the political aims of counterinsurgency, which is protecting the population and winning hearts and minds, In just war terms, drones may violate the criterion of “reasonable chance of success” because they undermine the political goals of the war.

The way beyond the deficiencies of war as annihilation exposed by the rise of the drones is not a new ethic but a more rigorous, responsible practice of just war. In marked contrast with the permissive vision of just war as it emerges in war as annihilation, counterinsurgency strategy calls for maximum discrimination and the minimum force necessary. This is because the focal point of counterinsurgency is protection of the population. The insurgent or terrorist is trying to provoke the counterinsurgent into using overwhelming force that inadvertently causes significant harm to noncombatants — with the result that the population turns against the counterinsurgents, thereby making victory more elusive.

A more rigorous vision and practice of just war is particularly well suited to the demands of a counterinsurgency because it recognizes that victory is determined by more than sheer destruction of the enemy, Likewise, it embraces a stricter standard of discrimination and proportionality, thereby increasing the security of the population in accord with the demands of counterinsurgency.

After more than ten years of war against an asymmetric opponent, the permissive vision of just war linked to wars of focused annihilation is in crisis. The context of counterinsurgency calls for more attention to the political dimension of war and thus for a more responsible and discriminating use of force. Far from calling for a new ethic, the context calls for a more robust vision and practice of just war.

I Declare World Peace.

Endless War in the Drone Age

This second of two posts on drones features a slide presentation by Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of CODEPINK and author of the book,  Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, 2012. (My previous post on drones is here.) I Declare World Peace, not drones.

Thanks to Medea for sharing publicly.

10 Reasons you should be OUTRAGED on the Drone Wars:

I have been wanting to post on the issue of drones, especially the “killer drones,” but have not been able to get it together. Instead, I am borrowing, in two posts, from others. This is a post from an organizer with CODEPINK who is Yemeni-American.

I Declare World Peace.

Digital footprints

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10. Bombing civilian communities and destroying homes, schools, hospitals, and pharmacies, is a form of terrorism. Saying oops and labeling them collateral damage is not OK. They are human beings with stories and histories. These are War Crimes.

Ex. On Dec 2009, a U.S. Tomhawk cruise missile hit al-majalah, a village in Yemen and dropped cluster bombs all over, killing  14 women including 5 pregnant woman and 21 children (the youngest child was only a one year old.) The cluster bombs resulted in two more deaths a year later after it exploded and injured15 more. No one killed in that massacre was even considered a “militant”. In other words: this was a war crime.

9. It took Diplomatic cables for the U.S. to finally admit they were launching airstrikes and waging a war in Yemen. They’ve been lying to you despite using your money to pay for these wars.

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