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Recently MinistryofTruth and Troubadour have written great articles on U.S. Drone policy that I very much enjoyed. Now I wish to give my own take on this debate. I personally believe that Drone strikes create rather than reduce terrorism. Both the Washington Post and the Guardian concur with me (or rather I with them).

But as in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where U.S. drone strikes have significantly weakened al-Qaeda’s capabilities, an unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population.

The evidence of radicalization emerged in more than 20 interviews with tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen where U.S. strikes have targeted suspected militants. They described a strong shift in sentiment toward militants affiliated with the transnational network’s most active wing, al-Qaeda in the -Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

“The drone strikes have not helped either the United States or Yemen,” said Sultan al-Barakani, who was a top adviser to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. “Yemen is paying a heavy price, losing its sons. But the Americans are not paying the same price.”

The Yemenis are telling us that they are angry with our drone strike policy and this anger transforms into violent retribution (again from Washington Post)
“Every time the American attacks increase, they increase the rage of the Yemeni people, especially in al-Qaeda-controlled areas,” said Mohammed al-Ahmadi, legal coordinator for Karama, a local human rights group. “The drones are killing al-Qaeda leaders, but they are also turning them into heroes.”
“There is more hostility against America because the attacks have not stopped al-Qaeda, but rather they have expanded, and the tribes feel this is a violation of the country’s sovereignty,” said Anssaf Ali Mayo, Aden head of al-Islah, Yemen’s most influential Islamist party, which is now part of the coalition government. “There is a psychological acceptance of al-Qaeda because of the U.S. strikes.”
Awlak tribesmen are businessmen, lawmakers and politicians. But the strikes have pushed more of them to join the militants or to provide AQAP with safe haven in their areas, said tribal leaders and Yemeni officials.
“The Americans are targeting the sons of the Awlak,” Aidaroos said. “I would fight even the devil to exact revenge for my nephew.”

Basically our drone strikes in Yemen may have done more harm than good, as it compelled otherwise innocent people, who had very little or no hostility to the U.S. to become militants seeking blood-revenge against America:

No Yemeni has forgotten the U.S. cruise missile strike in the remote tribal region of al-Majala on Dec. 17, 2009 — the Obama administration’s first known missile strike inside Yemen. The attack killed dozens, including 14 women and 21 children, and whipped up rage at the United States.

Today, the area is a haven for militants, said Abdelaziz Muhammed Hamza, head of the Revolutionary Council in Abyan province, a group that is fighting AQAP. “All the residents of the area have joined al-Qaeda,” he said.

Something else we must consider that Drone strikes specifically in Pakistan are illegal, and such strikes were found to be illegal by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions
The report, written by the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston, will be formally submitted to the UN's Human Rights Council in Geneva tomorrow. It says the use of drones to target militants "violate straightforward legal rules".

"The refusal by States who conduct targeted killings to provide transparency about their policy violates the international framework that limits the unlawful use of legal force against individuals. A lack of disclosure gives States a virtual and impermissible licence to kill."

The report can be read here:

Watch Philip Alston explain his reasoning below:

Also as the Guardian notes, what we are doing in Pakistan is illegal and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

The US's decision to step up the drone war again in Pakistan, opposed by both government and parliament in Islamabad as illegal and a violation of sovereignty, reflects its fury at the jailing of a CIA agent involved in the Bin Laden hunt and Pakistan's refusal to reopen supply routes for Nato forces in Afghanistan. Those routes were closed in protest at the US killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, for which Washington still refuses to apologise.
Civilians have paid a heavy price for our drone campaign in Pakistan, these people are somebody’s sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers  and while the American public may favor drone strike policy being distant from the violence and operating drones like a video game shelters us from the receiving end of this policy. It looks like this in Pakistan, once again from the Guardian
But that's a computer-game fantasy of clinical war. Since 2004, between 2,464 and 3,145 people are reported to have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan, of whom up to 828 were civilians (535 under Obama) and 175 children. Some Pakistani estimates put the civilian death toll much higher – plausibly, given the tendency to claim as "militants" victims later demonstrated to be nothing of the sort.

The US president insisted recently that the civilian death toll was not a "huge number". Not on the scale of Iraq, perhaps, where hundreds of thousands were killed; or Afghanistan, where tens of thousands have died. But they gruesomely include dozens killed in follow-up attacks after they had gone to help victims of earlier strikes – as well as teenagers like Tariq Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani boy decapitated in a strike last November after he had travelled to Islamabad to protest against drones.

Not even American citizens are spared death by drone (e.g. Awlaki ) hence, violating their due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution  as Glenn Greenwald notes:
So here we have this incredibly consequential policy adopted in total secrecy by the Obama administration, one that empowers the President to secretly target people, including American citizens, for instant, due-process-free death. They have placed the policy beyond the rule of law — by insisting that it’s too secret for courts to examine — and shielded it completely from democratic debate
Alleged terrorist or not, all American citizens (and frankly all people), deserve to be protected by the due process of law. Because, if we are not protected by the Due Process of law, the President can kill me or you, based on whim or secret committee.

We liberals have condemned Bush for torture, but targeted killings are more heinous than torture or indefinite detention.

Unlike detention, however, the results of targeted killing are irreversible. Dead is dead. And the collateral damage is considerably greater, because civilians can be killed along with the target
You cannot restore dead babies to their mother’s arms.

And our failure to widely condemn targeted killings is hypocrisy on our parts as Mother Jones once again notes:

Nevertheless, liberals' uncritical embrace of the Obama administration's widespread use of targeted killing represents a significant departure from their stated values. Although the ethics of targeted killing don't parallel the ethics of torture (except as far as disclosure is concerned), they do resemble the ethical debate around detention. For most of the Bush administration, liberals fought against President Bush's attempt to place suspected terror detainees in a legal black hole without habeas rights. Bush's critics understood that the concept of membership in a terrorist group is far more nebulous than being a soldier in a uniformed military. Establishing that the individuals we're treating as terrorists are actually terrorists is therefore a moral imperative


That's a tragic abdication of responsibility that will have profound implications for national security in the future.
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Comment Preferences

  •  So Shawn... What is a realistic solution to this (0+ / 0-)

    problem? We know that President Obama is not going to cease using drones. We know the military is certainly not going to cease drone use as well, and we know that the Republicans won't stop the use of drones and in effect would probably make it worse by increasing privatization of security matters.

    SO what do you suggest we do to fix it? And realistically how does that translate into the 2012 election.

    "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

    by volleyboy1 on Wed May 30, 2012 at 04:39:53 PM PDT

    •  I already gave you the answer to that Volley via (5+ / 0-)

      Noam Chomsky.

      Check this thread below:

      But here it is once again:

      Chomsky: What’s been going on in the Middle East, basically—and they don’t want to admit it—is the US and its allies have been supporting really harsh, brutal dictatorships for a very long time. And they’ve known for years, it’s not been a secret, that the population is strongly opposed to US policy. This guy Muasher, he’s a former Jordanian high official, which is a dictatorship of course, and he’s now the Middle East specialist for the Carnegie Endowment, and he was describing the principle that as long as people are quiet and subdued, we don’t really care what they think. Everything is fine.
      It's a very realistic policy to stop supporting dictators that oppress their population in the ME, otherwise this population will rise up against us.

      Whether or not we choose to implement it is a different question.

      •  It's all about the O-I-L (4+ / 0-)

        And it will be all about the O-I-L until it is no longer economically feasible to pump it out of the ground.

        We are a nation of oil addicts, oil JUNKIES, and we will do anything - ANYTHING - to get our next fix.

        It will end, but neither well nor prettily.

        If it's
        Not your body,
        Then it's
        Not your choice
        And it's
        None of your damn business!

        by TheOtherMaven on Wed May 30, 2012 at 05:26:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          downsouth, Lawrence

          Are not major sources of oil.

          •  Look at the map and (5+ / 0-)

            Note the narrow straits adjacent to the lower end of Yemen, the Bab-el-Mandeb. It is narrower than the Straits of Hormuz. This is strategically important to the US and the West for the shipment of oil.

            Afghanistan has some oil but adjacent Iran and adjacent Central Asia are rich in petroleum resources. Afghanistan is a potential conduit for gas from adjacent Turkmenistan to markets in Asia and elsewhere.  

            Afghanistan also serves and a place of US military use in a future attempt at regime change or war with Iran.

            The main resistance to the US presence in Afghanistan comes from the Pashtuns who live on both sides of the Afghanistan - Pakistan border.

            Involvement of oil companies, especially the Anglo-American companies, and their service contractors in the Central Asian countries and in Iran if a regime change or war would bring about a situation in which access to these resources in Central Asia and in Iran would bring wealth to them, to Wall Street and London banks and help strengthen the prolong the life of the the Petro-Dollar.

            As usual this is about power and money which is derived from the fulfillment of US interests which includes unencumbered access to resources and markets of foreign countries.

            “Humankind can not bear very much reality.” - T.S. Eliot

            by truong son traveler on Wed May 30, 2012 at 08:12:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Always curious about this (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        What is the support we're supposedly currently providing to dictators in the Middle East?

        •  Here is the answer (4+ / 0-)

          Here is one example:

          to get the full answer:

          or watch Noam Chomsky:


          •  Vids (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'm not in a place I can watch a video at the moment, but the link you provided did not give any information on what kind of support the U.S. is giving to any dictatorships in the Middle East.  It just says they're "US-backed" without specifying what that means exactly.

            •  Well in the case of Bahrain the main support is (4+ / 0-)

              giving authoritarians arms to crush their population.

              Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet and close ally of Saudi Arabia, brutally suppressed the uprising among their citizens. More than 40 pro-democracy protesters were killed and thousands more were arrested and tortured. While speaking out loudly on Libya's brutality, the Obama administration remained largely silent on Bahrain.

              Last fall the Obama administration announced plans to sell Bahrain $53 million worth of military weapons including bunker buster missiles, armored vehicles and wire-guided missiles. The Pentagon said at the time the sale "will improve Bahrain's capability to meet current and future armored threats. Bahrain will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense."

              Congressional opposition to the sale forced Obama to delay the weapons transfer. Now, sources have leaked, the Obama administration is quietly moving forward with the arms sales to the Bahraini monarchy - despite their on-going human rights abuses.

              That is just one example.

              Another example is Jordan:

              The United States gave Jordan, another Middle Eastern monarchy, $300 million in military aid in 2010. In response to recent protests, King Abdullah II of Jordan this week dismissed his cabinet and appointed a new prime minister. And, according to Human Rights Watch, violations of basic freedoms are not uncommon in Jordan. The group said in its annual report: “Torture, routine and widespread in recent years, continues, in particular at police stations, where complaints about ill-treatment increased in 2009 and again in 2010.” There is also no freedom of speech in Jordan, with steep penalties for criticizing the king or the government.
              If you can't watch vids maybe this Salon article might help:


              •  aid (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Thanks for the details.  I’ve always had a few questions on the topic of military aid.  First, are arms sales considered aid/support?  We’re definitely not “giving” Bahrain arms, we’re selling them.  Presumably if we didn’t sell them, they could buy them from somewhere else as they’re not short on money, so it’s not clear just how much our arms sales actually support the government.  In addition, weapons like wire-guided missiles aren’t used against protestors, so that’s not really the kind of arms we should be worried about.  Armored vehicles are another story, of course.  We’ve since restricted sales to Bahrain so we’re not selling them anything that could be used against protestors.

                We are giving military aid to Jordan, but it’s also stuff that isn’t too worrisome.  According to a recent Congressional Research Service report I just found, the $300 million in aid is mostly to the Air Force, which also isn’t exactly handy for repressing protests.  The military aid is detailed in this para:

                U.S. military assistance is primarily directed toward upgrading Jordan’s air force, as recent purchases include upgrades to U.S.-made F-16 fighters, air-to-air missiles, and radar systems.  FMF grants also provide financing for Jordan’s purchase of U.S. Blackhawk helicopters in order to enhance Jordan’s border monitoring and counter-terror capability. Jordan is currently the single largest provider of civilian police personnel and fifth-largest provider of military personnel to U.N. peacekeeping operations worldwide.  In addition to large-scale military aid grants for conventional weapons purchases, Jordan also receives grants of U.S. antiterrorism assistance from the Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs account (NADR).  Jordan received $24.6 million in NADR funds in FY2010 and $12.5 million in FY2011 to support local authorities in customs inspection and border patrol. Jordan also receives small sums of International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INLCE) aid to support police training in forensic criminal investigation procedures to combat gender-based violence, anti-money laundering, and enforcement of intellectual property rights laws (approximately $1.5 million in FY2010 and $250,000 in FY2011).
                Customs inspection, border patrol, UN peacekeeping and police training for combatting gender-based violence don’t fill me with dread.  Some of the police aid could hypothetically be used for combatting protestors, but I imagine the police are already fully supplied in that regard.

                There are a few larger questions out there.  If we don’t sell weapons to governments, will democracy reign, or will things simply continue as they have?  Dictatorships don’t need all that much military equipment to hold power in the end, just a willingness to clamp down on political opponents, which can be done without sophisticated military equipment.  Should we sell weapons to any non-democracy, even if those weapons are strictly for defensive purposes?  If we don’t sell crowd control equipment like tear gas, does that mean governments won’t be able to repress protests, or just that they’ll use the equipment they have, i.e. real bullets?

                I don’t have an answer to those questions, but I am curious about the debate.

                Just realized this is pretty off topic for a diary about drones, you'll have to excuse the diversion.

      •  I agree... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shawn Russell

        that this is the ideal first step to change the dynamics in the MENA region.  But such a policy change would take many years to bear real fruit.  And maintaining such a policy across what will undoubtedly be Administrations from both parties would be a tricky proposition, indeed.

        In order to save civilian lives, what we need is a moratorium on drone strikes.  Granted, that would be a hard sell, but its the only way I see to stop the senseless killing.  We are becoming what we are supposedly fighting, here.  It has to stop.

    •  Impressive how widespread the meme is that... (0+ / 0-)

      you can't advocate a moratorium on killing people unless you have a full alternate policy proposal ready, and are willing to sit on it until Mid November, while the carnage continues.

      Even better that no proposal is ever interesting or useful enough to elicit a legitimate response from those who perpetuate the meme.

  •  Technology is so cool - like video games (4+ / 0-)

    Just playing games.

    Sitting in AC facility driving a drone.

    What a fun job.

    And the president gets into the act to tell when and where to push the button.

    Getting those terrorists!

    What about international law?

    What about declared wars by congress?

    What about the power of a president to kill anyone in the world? Is there any higher power?

    Back to my video game.

    By the way, there are more terrorists out there now. That means more drones and more employment for drone drivers.

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