Tag Archives: Pakistan

US Drone Strikes Not as “Limited” as Obama’s UN Speech Claims

In his address to the UN last night in the 68th Session of the General Assembly, President Barrack Obama claimed much in support of his country’s human rights efforts.

However much of what he claimed was either disingenuous or simply untrue. Putting aside the fact he claims that his administration is “working” to close Guantanamo Bay (05:00) which after 5 years of promises seems quite a stretch, or the bizarre statement that the international coalition had “achieved its mission” in Afghanistan (04:25), though I am not certain what war President Obama has been watching or even how he brought up reviewing how the US gathers intelligence, ie mass surveillance by the NSA, (05:20) as though this was their idea not something they were forced into by the Snowden revelations.

I could even overlook the insane and baseless claim that the world is “more stable” now than it was 5 years ago (05:32) and lump it and all those other claims in with the usual American political rhetoric that we have grown to disdain quietly if he had not attempted to downplay and justify the American use of drone strikes in the middle east.

Screen grab of Live Address 24/9/2013
Screen grab of Live Address 24/9/2013

“We have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the Unite States, where capture is not feasible and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.” – Barrack Obama (04:40 )

This statement concerns me because this is apparently the limited stance. Does that mean that they were used in situations outside of these perimeters before? Even aside from that, how do you define a “threat”? What gives the US the right to kill indiscriminately those they consider a “threat” without any trial in a court of law.

And those legal and ethical concerns are only under the assumption that it is true that the US work not to injure civilians in their drone strikes which is not supported by the evidence, particularly in Yemen and Pakistan which have born the brunt of US drones.

August 1st on the very day that President Obama sat down in talks with Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Washington, four Yemeni citizens were killed in Hadhramout providence who appear to have been civilians. One of the victims was 21-year-old Saleh Saed bin Ishaq, who was survived by his wife and a young daughter, on his way home from buying his family new clothes for Eid.

These attacks occur within weeks of the anniversaries of two high profile civilian deaths by US drone strike from August 2012. One of them, Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, was a prominent anti-al-Qaeda preacher. Just two days before his death he denounced the group publicly. The other was his nephew, a young policemen Waleed Abdullah bin Ali Jaber. They were also killed in Hadhramout province.

Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber

Many commentators, including Baraa Shiban, a writer for al Jazeera from whom I got the dates and names above, argue that these strikes rather than curbing al-Qaeda’s activities simply grow their support base by giving them legitimate grievances to cite against the US.

Abdul-Ghani Al Iryani who founded Tawq, Yemen’s Democratic Awakening Movement two years ago is also a political analyst. He said in a statement to Alternet journalists:

“In the fight against al-Qaeda and the extremism it represents, we can do it the easy way, by killing, and thus have to do it again and again, or the hard way and really solve the problem. To truly fight al-Qaeda and similar groups, we must deal with the root causes of its growth – poverty, injustice, lack of rule of law…and drone strikes.”

Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference, a group of diverse political opinions brought together to work on a new Yemeni constitution voted 90% in favour of banning drone strikes. Delegates said that the US were violating Yemeni sovereignty and undermining the rule of law which was completely counter-productive in combating militant groups such as al-Qaeda.

Yemen protest Feb 2011 Washington DC (Colin David Anderson/ Flickr)
Yemen protest Feb 2011 Washington DC (Colin David Anderson/ Flickr)

Pakistan has seen 110 people killed by US drone strikes in this year alone despite the Pakistani government’s numerous protests to Washington that this was a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

It is difficult to really know how many civilians are killed in drone attacks as the US government has proven in the last year that they feel no obligation to disclosed such information. The cover up of the deaths of the Reuters journalists in Iraq uncovered through WikiLeaks begs the question how we can trust the US military to disclose accurate information.

During the election campaign in 2012 PolicyMic reported that the CIA wanted to increase the use of drones despite independent reports stating that: “estimates as high as 98% of drone strike casualties being civilians (50 for every one “suspected terrorist”). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA is deliberately targeting those who show up after the sight of an attack, rescuers, and mourners at funerals as a part of a “double-tap” strategy eerily reminiscent of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.” This tactic of killing those who arrive after the initial attack was also seen in the WikiLeaks video.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism then released a leaked CIA document which estimated that civilians killed in Pakistan since drone strikes began there were much higher than previously realised. The document details 75 drone attacks carried out in Pakistan between 2006 and 2009 by the CIA and a further 5 attacks by Nato or other unspecified forces.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.

Which begs the question how and why we should trust the assurance of an administration that has continuously disregarding international law, executes foreign citizens without trial or cooperation from the nation in question and yet use the rhetoric of human right while aping a grotesque pantomime of diplomacy.

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World News 25/9/2013

Last updated: 15:35 GMT

UNITED NATIONS: The 68th Session got underway with an address from Barrack Obama which will be further discussed here.

The Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff strong criticised the US and the NSA at the beginning of her address to the UN calling it an “intrusion” and calling it a “breach of international law”.

“The right to security of a country’s citizens can never be insured by violating the fundamental human and civil rights of another country’s…” – Rousseff (03:30)

This session saw the much anticipated first speech by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. His tone was not as conciliatory as perhaps was expected however it was not aggressive either. He highlighted that Iran wished to work to create a less militarised, more stable world but also highlighted what he felt were injustices being perpetrated against Iran such has the harsh international trade sanctions. Rouhani argued forcefully against these sanctions, saying that they violated inalienable human rights and caused widespread suffering.

Leaders of India and Pakistan and said to meet sometime today to discuss the situations in Kashmir after fresh protests and instability in the past week. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif will meet while the UN General Assembly is ongoing in New York this week.

PAKISTAN: Yesterday’s 7.8 earthquake centred on southwest Pakistan has killed at least 370 people and created a new island. The army has been sent to the region to assist in rescue efforts.

Image from http://www.express.pk

KENYA: At the beginning of the fourth day of conflict in the capital city of Nairobi there were accusations found on Twitter once again. An account linked to al-Shabab, the militant group responsible for this attack which has left at least 61 people dead, claims that Kenyan security forces used chemical weapons to end the siege and have now collapsed a floor to hide the evidence, killing 137 hostages.

Government spokesman Manoah Esipisu denied this and told the AP that the official civilian death toll remains 61 and that no chemical weapons were used. He confirmed that there was a collapse inside the shopping mall but claimed it was caused by a fire started by the militants, they believe 8 civilian hostages could be under the rubble and possible an unknown number of militants.

MALDIVES: There is global concern as a Maldivian court postpones the presidential election scheduled for September 28.

ZIMBABWE: Over 80 elephants were poisoned with cyanide in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest game park. Poachers poisoned the watering hole in order to get easy access to the ivory. Other animals were also killed but the park does not yet have definite numbers.

UN Human Rights Council sees Controversy

The United Nations saw the 27th Regular Meeting of the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council

Lithuania, just beginning their presidency of the European Council, opened discussions with a general statement of the EU position on Human Rights. The delegation from Ireland put forward a draft motion about maintaining pluralist civil society.

The delegations began to grow more adversarial Allegations of forced sterilizations of Tamils were issued against Sri Lanka. Myanmar was criticised for its discrimination and the violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Then a representative of Human Right’s Watch began accusing Egyptian human rights activist, Mona Seif, of not being eligible for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), Egypt raised point of order that it was not relevant to the agenda. America disagreed, Cuba backed up Egypt as did China, UK went with the US then Pakistan supported Egypt. Human Rights Watch went on to call Mona Seif a “terrorist supporter”.

This was not unexpected as the last few months have seen increased controversy over Seif’s nomination following the publicising of Tweets where she celebrating the sabotage of the Egyptian pipeline bringing gas to Israel and the burning of an Israeli flag. Seif defended herself by saying:

“One of the rights that we, the young people of Egypt, have succeeded in seizing is the right to insult our own government and to insult anyone whose policies are bad for our people. We insist on this right.”

However many feel it would damage the reputation of the prize as her Tweets “publicly voiced blatantly violent views”

Another NGO raised the issue of the Falun Gong in China and their persecution. China objected calling the Falun Gong an “evil cult” which had been outlawed and denying that this was relevant to the agenda. While supporting this point of order from China, Cuba wandered from the point to criticise Israeli violence against Palestinians using the word “genocide” for which the Americans and UK delegations criticised the Cubans.

World News 24/9/2012

13:30 GMT

PAKISTAN: An earthquake of 7.8 magnitude has hit south-west Pakistan with tremors being felt as far away as New Delhi. US Geological Survey has issued a “RED” alert which means estimated fatalities of over 1,000 and damages costing over $1 billion. Updates will follow via Twitter.

WALES: Welsh police have arrested 4 men in connection with a slavery ring in the UK. The investigation followsedthe discovery of Darrell Simester, 43, who had been missing for 13 years and had apparently been living and working in the area.

UNITED NATIONS: The UN meet today in New York. President Obama will give a welcome address followed by a statement by new Iranian President Rouhani.

The 24th Regular session the Human Rights Council are meeting in Geneva today to raise issues of international human rights in relation racism, racial discrimination or xenophobia. There has been much heated debate so far which will be discussed further here.

KENYA: The Westgate situation continues. On Saturday a group of up to 20 militants attacked the shopping mall in the capital Naiobi with guns and grenades. At least 62 people are dead and another are missing and may either have been killed or are being held hostage inside the centre.

There are mixed messages being release by multiple news sources regarding whether any Americans or British citizens were involved. There are also questions asked about how many hostages are still being held inside.

A British security source says it is “a possibility” that Samantha Lewthwaite, a UK citizen, was involved with the militants, but Kenyan President has denied this, saying that all the attackers were men. 

GREECE: New strikes have begun all over the country following further threats of public sector job cuts. The strike of public sector workers has effectively shut down schools and left hospitals with a skeleton staff. 

SYRIA: Spanish journalist, Marc Marginedas, has gone missing from the city of Hama in Syria. His newspaper, the Barcelona-based El Periódico revealed that he was kidnapped by Islamist fighters but that no group has taken responsibility yet.

RUSSIA: Edward Snowden’s lawyer gave an exclusive interview to RT today, which can be viewed here.

CHINA: 14 baby panda cubs were shown to the public today. 14 cubs were artificially bred in the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Base in south-west China’s Sichuan province.

World News 22/9/2013

11:30 UTC

PAKISTAN: Two suicide bombings have killed up to 60 people, according to hospital officials, at a church in Peshawar.

KENYA: Gunfire has continued in the Westgate shopping mall 24 hours after the conflict began. 59 people are suspect dead, 10-15 gunmen are thought to still be inside with 7 hostages.

Somali militant group al-Shabab took responsibility and Kenyan police forces and army are still sweeping the shopping mall trying to flush them out. There are as many as 4,000 Kenyan troops in the south of Somalia working as peacekeepers since 2011.

SRI LANKA: Tamil party have won a landslide victory in the first semi-autonomous council election since the devastating decades of ethnic civil war. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) got 30 out of a total 38 available seats.

The Sri Lankan government, which is Sinhalese majority, held the election after increased international pressure. There were reports of voter intimidation and harassment by Sinhalese police or security forces. 

Photo: Azzam Ameen from Twitter