Drones strikes; collateral damage and the absurdity of American exceptionalism

Atlas Monitor | 4 April 2016

I was prompted to respond to my third party online sparring partner, an American called Jeff, after he responded to an email from a buddy of mine whom I’ve never met which was forwarded to me to see if I had a view.

Jeff was celebrating American drone strikes as if was Thanksgiving. Having written a Masters dissertation on the subject of the US targeted killing policy I was compelled to set Jeff straight. We will see how that goes …

Well of course Jeff’s view is fundamentally flawed and as usual presents no evidence let alone facts but simply the warped view and uninformed cartoon-like opinion of the American exceptionalist chauvinist. Sweeping generalizations such as I think most US citizens, I’ll bet now EU citizens as well, are OK with the low levels of collateral damage caused in drone attacks” are clearly not to be taken seriously by anyone who knows what they’re talking about.

He says “Everyone in a local community knows who the Taliban/Al Qaeda/ISIS leaders are … Their friends, associates and families are also acutely aware that they are being perpetually watched by spies and satellites”. That’s interesting because the US and its Orwellian surveillance and intelligence apparatus, which can be described as a global panopticon, can’t find a ‘moderate rebel’ in Syria nor can it tell the difference between ISIS and a MSF hospital. Maybe the NSA and CIA should talk to the “local community” ?

What is most striking is Jeff’s flippant and callous disregard for human life, justified by a tit for tat; eye for an eye; guilt by association mentality. As one will note; it is not terribly sophisticated and one also wonders how and when this let’s continue to vaporize them and their unfortunate relatives and associates whenever the opportunity avails itself” myopia will ever end. One suspects, by the the tone of Jeff’s remarks, it will be when they vaporize every last of them; echoing the sociopathic, psychopathic and tyrannical infamy of history’s most notorious murderers.

Perhaps the most glorious absurdity in Jeff’s [ir]rationale, of So, if you want to hang out with them, you face the significant risk of being vaporized along with them”, is that it would have justified ordering a drone strike on the Reagan Whitehouse. See photo below.

Reagan_sitting_with_people_from_the_Afghanistan-Pakistan_region_in_February_1983.jpg

Above: President Reagan meeting with Afghan Mujahideen leaders in the Oval Office in 1983

Reagan also dedicated the 1982 launching of the Space Shuttle Colombia to the Taliban so according to Jeff’s guilt by association model for anti-terrorism policy – a drone strike on Kennedy Space Centre please.

 

Jeff’s [ir]rationale would also have justified a drone strike on the grand dragon of geopolitiking; US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who ‘hung out’ with the Mujahideen in 1979. Notable quote from Brzezinski to Mujahideen: your cause is right and god is on your side

Drone strikes would also be justified on USA’s BFF – Saudi ArabiaKing Salman in particular (see 36min 11sec before it gets taken down again).

 

The George W Bush administration and the Carlyle Group too should be on Jeff’s vaporization list. Lets not forget the Pentagon where Anwar al-Awlaki was a guest immediately after 9/11. Nor should we forget NATO and its air support for the Mujahideen during the war in Yugoslavia. In brief Washington and its allies’ collusion with terrorists is well documented. I’m sure most US citizens, I’ll bet now EU citizens as well, are OK with … Yeah I bet not really.

So let us examine US drone policy.

The drone strikes are part of the US targeted killing policy which violates International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This is according to a 2010 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; a 2012 investigation by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School (Stanford Clinic) and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law (NYU Clinic); as well as a catalogue of academic papers and media reports.

An unclassified leaked ‘white paper’ prepared by Obama administration officials for the US Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees was obtained by NBC News. It sets out the legal justification for targeted killing and states that a target must be an ‘imminent threat’. However, the warped definition of an ‘imminent threat’ performs the following logical, ethical and mental gymnastics:

The condition that an operational leader present an “imminent” threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future

Western Civilization (America if it wants to be included) was built on the concept of ‘due process’. What part of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights would justify such a mockery?

Now with regards to the issue of collateral damage, for Washington, that’s easy. All it does is make sweeping designations of all military aged men as ‘unlawful combatants’ thereby circumventing any constraints imposed by the Geneva Conventions that ostensibly distinguish us from hordes of marauding Visisgoths, Mongols and Huns.

In brief there is no collateral damage so long as they’re not women and children, which they often are, but that’s ok because over there at the Empire of Chaos they have a justification for killing children too. The killing of Abdulrahman al-Alwaki, the 16 year old son of Anwar, was explained by the Whitehouse spokesperson Robert Gibbs as follows:

“I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children”

 

Oh yeah! He actually said that. Al-Awlaki is-was an American citizen; one of 3 killed by US drone strikes despite that fact that there has been no evidence linking Abdulrahman to any terrorist plot. US officials initially claimed he was with their actual target, Egyptian al Qaeda operative Ibrahim al-Banna (he wasn’t). They also mistakenly stated Abdulrahman’s age to be 21, leading the al-Awlaki family to release the boy’s birth certificate.

So even if you kill a kid just claim he’s an adult. Claim whatever you want, et voila.

Political scientist Amatai Eztioni is one of the leading academics supporting US targeted killings. In response to the suggestion that US policy is unrestrained and in violation of habeas corpus i.e. due process such as a fair trial (one of those quaint quirks of Western Civilization) he assures us that the targets are in fact tried ‘in absentia’. Ever heard of that? Indeed, the Salem witch trial of Mary Bradbury 1692.

So how effective are these drones strikes?

Some estimate high value targets in Pakistan constitute 2% of all drone-related fatalities. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that 1.5% are high value targets and the rest are civilians (17%) including children (5.6%) as well as ‘other’ alleged militants with the sweeping designation of unlawful combatant(75.9%).

It has also been reported that some targets in Yemen could have been captured. Retired US Army Colonel and former US diplomat Ann Wright confirms that there have been cases where members of Al Qaeda where killed rather than captured when capture was feasible. Wright reports that:

Entsar Ali Al-Qadhi, Chair of the Marib Youth Council, said al Qaeda in her region are known to the government. They travel freely in the region and could be stopped at any of the 35 checkpoints between Marib and Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, if the government wishes. Several who have been killed by US drone attacks had been released from prison and had been reporting to a government office each month. Their locations were well-known to government officials [and therefore easily passed on to US agencies] …

US targeted killing policy involves violating all manner of laws and norms and then retroactively rewriting the law to exonerate the act. Victims of ‘collateral damage’ become ‘unlawful combatants’ and targets are judged to be ‘imminent threats’ simply by fiddling with definitions. The rewriting of the definition of ‘imminent threat’, to preclude the legal requirement that the targeted killing of an individual including a US citizen using drones be based on intelligence that demonstrates the existence of an actual plot to attack the US, is Stalinist and Hitlerian. This must be understood.

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