Tag Archives: Yemen

Yemen Drone Strikes: Arrest This!

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative studied Obama’s drone strikes in Yemen and found that, contrary to assurances that drone strikes are only used when there is no other way to apprehend targets, people were killed even when the local authorities were ready, willing and able to arrest them. But arrests just aren’t as damned cool as drones.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: American Drones KIll 28 Innocent People for Every “Bad Guy”

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Not sure what to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend? If you’re American, be thankful there’s no God. Because if there were a Supreme Deity, and His take on personal accountability resembled Judeo-Christian mythology in the slightest, he would smite your oblivious apathetic ass for failing to overthrow a government responsible for something as evil as Obama’s drone war.

Even for the few of us who have been paying close attention to what the U.S. government is doing in Pakistan and other targets of “targeted killing” campaigns carried out by the CIA and Air Force, a new study by the human rights organization Reprieve contains new revelations about drones that are shocking and appalling.

As the UK newspaper The Guardian reports, targeted killings are anything but: “even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls ‘targeted killing’ – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times.”

One example is Qari Hussain, who was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban. A Hellfire missile fired by one of Obama’s Predator drones blew up Hussain on October 15, 2010. To the president, this was a success.

What the White House doesn’t say, however, is there were five previous drone attacks against Hussain. All five failed, killing scores of innocent people. “For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the U.S. killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.”

The 128-civilians-to-one-militant death ratio doesn’t even address the legality of targeting Hussain himself, in violation of a 30-year-old executive order banning political assassinations, not to mention the longstanding American political tradition prohibiting such actions. All drone assassinations are illegal, but the sloppiness of this program is insane.

As the French anti-revolutionary leader François de Charette said at his trial, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Even by the glib standards of such warmongering bastards, however, Obama’s willingness to slaughter countless innocents in his quest to terminate a terrorist needle in a tribal area haystack places him among history’s more bloodthirsty turds.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri has survived two drone attacks that killed 76 children and 29 adults.

According to Reprieve’s analysis as of November 24th, 1,147 people were killed in attempts to kill 41 men.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise,'” Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve told the Guardian. “But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the U.S. goes after.”

Reading the Guardian report, it’s difficult to know whether to cry for the dead or laugh at the incompetence of American drone operators:

“Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as ‘killed’ on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets. In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive. Available data for the 41 men targeted for drone strikes across both countries indicate that each of them was reported killed multiple times. Seven of them are believed to still be alive. The status of another, Haji Omar, is unknown. Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, whom drones targeted three times, later died from natural causes, believed to be hepatitis.”

That’s what will win the war on terror: dirty water.

As a frequent critic of U.S. government policies, I’ve sometimes worried that Obama might sic one of his killer air robots on me. Thanks to Reprieve, I feel relieved. Even if Obama targets me, after all, it’s likely I’ll be reported killed multiple times while remaining alive and well…while hundreds of random people walking the streets get blown up willy-nilly.

Obama’s remote-control drone murderers are the embodiment of evil in the 21st century: careless, alienated, remote, bloodless. They also symbolize contemporary political culture: arrogant, corrupt and stupid.

Check this out: “A Reprieve team investigating on the ground in Pakistan turned up what it believes to be a confirmed case of mistaken identity. Someone with the same name as a terror suspect on the Obama administration’s ‘kill list’ was killed on the third attempt by U.S. drones. His brother was captured, interrogated and encouraged to ‘tell the Americans what they want to hear’: that they had in fact killed the right person.”

Every single day — even as you read this — American drones are stalking and killing innocent people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. They’re doing this in your name, using weapons systems you paid for. Yet you’re still allowed to walk the earth, totally unsmoten.

Be thankful there’s no God — or that his intel is as lousy as the CIA’s.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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Too Much Firepower

After a gunman shot 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, gun control advocates wondered aloud: what will it take for America to pass common-sense gun control legislation? But the questions they asked about the shooter — why didn’t anyone stop him despite his history of violence? — could just as easily apply to more prominent figures than the lone gunman.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: We’re Not War Weary. We’re Suspicious.

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Americans Aren’t “War Weary.” Obama is Just Lazy.

Americans, our pundit class has decided, aren’t going along with President Obama’s hard-on for firing cruise missiles into Syrian cities because they’re “war weary.”

Bullshit.

True, the wars have cost us. At 12 years and counting, the illegal and unjustified U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is America’s longest war. We’ve been in Iraq — following one of the most brazen acts of aggressive warfare in our blood-soaked history — for 10. Eight thousand American soldiers have gotten themselves killed; more than 50,000 have been wounded.  (To conform to the journalistic standards of U.S.-based opinion writing, I shan’t mention the hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalis and so on slaughtered by U.S. invasion forces.)

As tragically wasteful as those casualties have been, the price we’ve paid has been low by historical standards. Roughly 700 U.S. combat deaths a year is a drop in the bucket compared to, say, Vietnam (6,000 a year), Korea (12,000) and World War II (100,000). Unlike those earlier conflicts, the post-9/11 war on terrorism has been a remote, irrelevant abstraction to most Americans.

“Our work is appreciated, of that I am certain,” General Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff told members, told graduates at West Point. “But I fear [civilians] do not know us. I fear they do not comprehend the full weight of the burden we carry or the price we pay when we return from battle.” A 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that just a third of Americans aged 18 to 29 have a direct family member who has served in uniform since 9/11 — the lowest rate in memory.

About 2.2 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq — not much fewer than the 2.7 million who went to Vietnam. The difference is that today’s volunteer military is less broadly representative of American society.

A woman recently introduced me to her brother. “He just got back from Iraq,” she said. “Afghanistan,” he corrected her. His sister! “Thank you for your service,” a man walking told him, without waiting for a reply. The vet’s face hardened. Nobody gets it.

Civilians never did, not fully — but the disconnect was never this big.

“War-weary”? You must first notice something before you can get tired of it.

Until the Syria debate, antiwar liberals like New York Congressman Charles Rangel have been decrying the gap between civilians and the military. His proposed solution? Bring back the draft. Rangel and others reason that if more young people — not just poor, undereducated, underprivileged yokels from the sticks — had “skin in the game,” it would be harder for politicians to start one war after another. “A renewed draft will help bring a greater appreciation of the consequences of decisions to go to war,” Rangel argues. After Obama proposed bombing Syria, Rangel renewed his proposal.

The United States has been at war throughout 90% of its history. I am 50 years old, born a few months before the assassination of JFK; my only peacetime president has been Jimmy Carter. War-weary? Like Orwell’s Oceania, the United States of America is always at war. We love war. War is what America does best, war is what America does most.  War is 54% of the federal budget!

As noted above, there have been relatively few casualties in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Because media coverage has been so sanitized and pro-military, these wars’ gruesome atrocities, the My Lais and napalm attacks — Mahmudiya, Panjwaii, white phosphorus that dissolved people in the battle of Fallujah — have barely been reported, so there have been few Vietnam-type images piped into our living rooms to elicit disgust or guilt. Even the fiscal effects have been deferred; the wars are officially off the books and thus aren’t tallied as part of the budget deficit.

Given how little the current wars have personally affected us, why would we be war-weary?

If Obama doesn’t get his war against Syria, he has no one to blame but himself.

The dude is just lazy.

Think of the list of American wars, just since 1990: the Gulf War, Serbia, Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen, Libya…it isn’t hard to con Americans into a war. Unlike Bush and his warmongering predecessors, however, Obama isn’t willing to do the propaganda work.

These things can’t be rushed. Bush spent a year and a half making his phony case to invade Iraq. Countless speeches, endless bullying, tons of twisted arguments and faked WMD reports.

Obama wanted to go to war four days after the chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. How many Americans were even aware of the story? Remember, this was late summer, peak vacation season. First you tear Americans away from the barbecue, then you get to barbecue the Syrians.

As has been widely noted, Obama’s messaging was all over the place, confusing a public programmed to digest its politics in bumpersticker-length slogans and talking points. Allowing yourself to be seen golfing right after calling for war hardly conveys the requisite sense of menace, much less the urgency of an imminent threat.

When JFK wanted the public to sign off on nuclear brinksmanship with the USSR, he went on television with spy plane photos of Cuba’s missiles. Despite considerable evidence that the rebels or a rogue officer were responsible, Obama says he has proof that the sarin gas attack was ordered by Syrian President Bashar Assad. Yet, unlike Kennedy, he won’t pony up the proof. Why not? As Russian President Vladimir Putin observes, that’s crazy fishy: “Claims that proof exists but is classified and cannot be shown are beneath criticism. If the U.S. says that the al-Assad regime is responsible for that attack and that they have proof, then let them submit it to the U.N. Security Council.”

Militarism is our thing, but Americans need to think their enemies threaten them directly before they’re cool with war.

Team Obama admits that Syria is not a direct or imminent danger to the U.S., but that we must attack them as a deterrent to other supposed future possible maybe enemies, namely Iran and North Korea. No dice. Only one in five Americans buys that. If Iran or North Korea is a threat, then attack those countries, not Syria.

Obama’s verbiage is telling: “I put it before Congress because I could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the United States.”

Could not honestly claim. As opposed to something like this: “Assad’s use of chemical weapons is not an imminent, direct threat, so we have time for a Congressional debate.”

Americans are good at reading between the lines. Another reason — not war-weariness — that Obama might not get his Syria war.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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War on War

What if we devoted a proportional number of financial and other resources to threats other than terrorism?

 

NOTE: My apologies to people who commented on this cartoon post. Due to a glitch in WordPress, I was forced to delete this post and put it back up. Regrettably, in the process, your comments were lost. I always make every effort to avoid this sort of thing, and I am sorry.

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Closing Guantánamo Is Easy

Obama Doesn’t Need Congress. He Needs Travelocity.

Guantánamo is complicated. Everyone says so.

Everyone is wrong.

There’s nothing complicated about it. Guantánamo should be closed.

Mainstream media pundits don’t get it. They suggest a lame hodgepodge of solutions: a few repatriations here, a few extraordinary renditions there, maybe convincing some allies to take the victims of our stupid “war on terrorism.”

Immoral and idiotic.

All of the detainees — every last one of them, the schlubs who have been officially cleared by the Pentagon and, yes, even the scary dudes the government insists are “the worst of the worst” — can, should and — if the United States Constitution means anything at all — must be released.

Here.

In the United States.

I don’t find myself saying this very often, but President Obama is finally doing talking about doing something right. Granted, he let five years pass before he took the problem seriously. It took a hunger strike, now entering its fourth month, which could begin claiming the lives of some of the more than 100 participating POWs, to get his attention. Even now, he is violating the detainees’ human rights and the standards of the American Medical Association by violently shoving feeding tubes up their noses to —irony alert! — save their lives. Still, better late than never: Obama (finally) says he wants to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise by closing this monstrosity.

“Guantánamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” he told a news conference. “It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us, in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counter-terrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”

So close it. You don’t need Congress. All you need is a Travelocity account.

When Obama became president in 2009, there were 245 prisoners at Gitmo. Now there are 166. (None have been released since 2011, which demoralized the remaining prisoners to the point that many are willing to die from hunger.) Some of these wretches been there since the concentration camp — look it up, there is no better term for it — opened 12 years ago.

It’s been ages. Three inmates arrived at Gitmo as children. As they passed through adolescence and entered adulthood, they were tortured, abused, and denied basic human rights by American soldiers and CIA agents, left to rot in American dog cages. (At least 28 children have done time there.)

American officials worry that their experience may have radicalized them. How could it not? If it hasn’t, they must be insane.

The horrors are just beginning to come out. A Spanish investigation censored in U.S. media found that American soldiers have abused Gitmo prisoners with “blows to [the] testicles,” “detention underground in total darkness for three weeks with deprivation of food and sleep,” being “inoculated…through injection with ‘a disease for dog cysts,'” smearing feces on prisoners and (of course) waterboarding.

Actionable intelligence obtained under torture: none.

This was in 2009. Under Obama.

Few Americans are aware of how the vast majority of the so-called detainees got there. Mostly, they were sold. Yes, like slaves: Afghan warlords and Pakistani tribesmen sold anyone they could find, especially Arabs and other foreigners fleeing the 2001 US invasion, to the CIA and the US military for bounties ranging between $3,000 and $25,000. Hundreds of men and boys shipped to America’s new gulag were innocent, simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. As for the rest, the majority were never a threat to America. Their jihad was against the governments of U.S. frenemies like China, Pakistan and Yemen.

The 166 survivors — several have committed suicide, and some deaths classified as suicides were almost certainly murdered under torture using an obscure technique called “dryboarding” — can be classified into four categories:

Eighty-six have been cleared for transfer or release but can’t be sent back to their home country — Yemen, for most of them — because, as political dissidents, they might be — irony alert! — tortured or killed.

The Obama administration considers 47 too dangerous to release, but cannot prosecute them because there isn’t enough evidence against them, or the case against them has been compromised by the fact that they were tortured.

Twenty-four are deemed prosecutable but no one can say when a trial might take place.

Six have been charged and three have been convicted in the kangaroo court “military commission” system invented by George W. Bush’s legal team to prosecute “unlawful combatants,” a phony term that doesn’t exist under U.S. or international law.

Obama should stop blaming Congress. Yes, the Republicans did refuse to allocate funds to transfer Guantánamo detainees to the United States. But Obama signed their legislation into law. He owns this mess.

All 166 men should be offered the choice of a ticket back home or permanent residency in the United States. After all, what are we talking about? 166 one-way tickets. Even if we fly these guys first-class, $250,000 isn’t going to break the bank. Obama is worth about $12 million. Who needs taxpayer money? He could cover that personally.

Consider it retroactive payment for that 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Under the American system of justice, everyone — citizen or noncitizen — is innocent until proven guilty. 163 of these guys clearly can’t be proven guilty, and the three that were found guilty obviously didn’t get a fair trial. The rules might have been different had the Bush and Obama administrations classified them as POWs, but he didn’t want to give them the rights that they were entitled to under the Geneva Conventions. The US has been having it both ways for 12 long years. This disgusting farce needs to come to an end now.

Imagine the visual: Obama flies to Cuba, personally apologizes to each man, hands him a big check for $10 million, throws open the gates of the camp and gives it back to Cuba (from which we stole it in the first place). Hell, let them hitch a ride back to Andrews on Air Force One. Open bar!

Would some of these ex-Gitmo victims join the fight against the United States? Maybe. After all, 60% of American ex-cons reoffend. In a free society, that’s a risk that we take.

Still, you’ve got to think that in a country full of security cameras, with two or three overfunded intelligence agencies and countless domestic police apparatuses, it shouldn’t be too hard to set up the former prisoners of Guantánamo with job training, phone taps, GPS trackers on their cars and two or three agents each to follow them around and make sure that they don’t get into trouble.

And don’t forget that footage of Obama apologizing.

Can you imagine how pissed off the Al Qaeda guys would be?

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Will the Next 9/11 Arrive via Drone?

Aggressive Drone Wars Set a Dangerous Precedent

There’s no denying it: we Americans, we have a lot of nerve.

We love to pick fights, but when someone punches back, man, the whining never stops. And boy, do we love to escalate. Nuclear weapons? We invented the suckers, used them not once but twice – the only country that ever has – the only anybody who ever has – yet we have the balls to slap economic sabotage on the Iranians and North Koreans and smear them as “rogue states” for even thinking about trying to get their own. Which these nations only want – irony alert – because they’re afraid of us.

You know the pattern. We escalate the arms race with some nifty new gadget devilishly designed to kill and maim more efficiently and effectively, then we deploy brute economic and military force (along with wildly hypocritical propaganda about how we’re nice and peaceful and the most trustworthy bunch around) to keep those fancy new weapons all to ourselves for as long as possible. Like cyber warfare. We started it.

The first major state-against-state – completely unprovoked – first strike in cyberspace was the Stuxnet virus unleashed against Iranian nuclear power facilities. A joint American-Israeli effort, it wasn’t enough for us to mess with the Iranians. We had to gloat.

Now it’s drones. Beginning in 2004 with George W. Bush, the drone warfare program against the peoples of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia and God knows where else was greatly escalated by an Obama administration marketing itself as a regime ending two wars in public (though not really) while it secretly expands America’s military footprint.

And jokes about it.

Operating as usual in full-on bully mode, the U.S. blithely acts as though it’s entitled to the perpetual exclusive right to invade other nation’s sovereign airspace at will. Rather than assume the dignified posture of silence or the embarrassed sheep business of a kid who got caught in the cookie jar, Obama officials even had the gall to get all sassy and file a formal diplomatic protest after the Iranians shot at one of their spy Predators in November. In a different world, one where Iran had the world’s largest military and was the world’s undisputed number-one arms dealer, the Islamic Republic could have made a credible case under international law for war against the U.S.

In an ideal world – i.e., the kind of society people of goodwill work to create – these devices would be illegal under international law. Like landmines, drones do a lot more harm than good. You’d might as well declare the First Amendment dead and gone now that private corporations, the FBI, CIA, local police and just about anyone else can scan the crowds at antigovernment protests and identify demonstrators with facial recognition software. Who is going to dare to make a radical statement now? As it is, you can’t count on cops not to shoot unarmed African-American men. How many more innocent civilians are going to die due to the faulty judgment of a drone pilot miles away? As the first country to develop drone technology, the U.S. had the chance to keep this genie stuffed inside its bottle; instead, we let the monster loose and told it to run wild.

It doesn’t take a genius military strategist to worry about drone weapons proliferation. The technology is relatively simple and cheap, so cheap that soldiers occupying Afghanistan use throwaway six-pound mini-drones slightly larger than paper airplanes to see what’s around the next mountain.

The FAA is rushing to approve licenses to “tens of thousands of police, fire and other government agencies able to afford drones lighter than traditional aircraft and costing as little as $300,” reports The New York Times, including everything from “remote-controlled planes as big as jetliners to camera-toting hoverers called Nano Hummingbirds that weigh 19 grams.” Police departments from Seattle to Gadsden, Alabama have already bought these creepy devices. And it’s now possible for a private citizen to buy his own drone for $300. A peeping Tom’s dream!

It was only a matter of time – not much time – before other countries followed suit. Which prompts two questions.

What’s to stop a hostile nation-state from attacking the United States with drones?

What if terrorists get drones?

Answer to the first question first: Nothing can stop a nation from Hellfiring us. While there are practical and economic barriers to entry that reduce nuclear proliferation, even the poorest nations can develop a scary drone program. Israel and its American ally claim to be terrified of the prospect of an Iranian nuclear attack against Tel Aviv, but the threat of a conventional weapons attack via drone is really what should be keeping policymakers up at night. Iran unveiled its Shahed 129 drone plane, a device that can fly 24 hours in a row, in September. That’s the one they plan to export. In September an Iranian drone launched from Lebanon successfully took pictures of Israeli military facilities.

The trouble isn’t just the drones themselves. It’s how the United States uses them: aggressively, prolifically, violently and with little concern for legal or diplomatic niceties. “Skip the drone debate, just kill the terrorists before they kill us,” reads the headline of a FoxNews piece by Erick Erickson, one of the Right’s most reliable cretins. But it’s not that simple. When the United States, the first nation to develop and deploy drones for surveillance and military attack purposes, asserts the right to “defend” itself by looking anywhere it wants and blowing up anyone it feels like, including its own citizens and people who have never expressed the slightest desire to attack the United States, it sets a precedent.

“More than 50 nations have or are trying to get [drone] technology,” notes The Times. “The United States will set the standard for them all.” Osama bin Laden said he wouldn’t have hesitated to use a nuke against the U.S. because Hiroshima and Nagasaki were civilian targets. Using the same reasoning as the Obama administration, why wouldn’t the government of Yemen be legally justified to deploy Yemeni drones over American airspace and use them to blow up any Americans or anyone else they felt like?

We don’t hold back. Why should anybody else?

While a nation-state might feel constrained by the international community, its allies or domestic public opinion from attacking civilian targets in the United States, an underground resistance organization would be far less likely to refrain from using drones to make a political statement and/or wage remote-control guerrilla warfare. Even terrorist groups care about PR – but, like bin Laden, they could easily make the case that we have it coming.

Though some commentators – mainly and interestingly, liberals aligned with the Obama administration, which makes one wonder if they’d change sides after a GOP electoral sweep – pooh-pooh the terrorist drone threat, this is one time when the smoke rising from the ashes of buildings in an American city isn’t a remote (no pun intended) possibility created by a fevered theorist but rather an absolute certainty. It isn’t a matter of if we’ll get hit by drones. It’s a matter of when.

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. His book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan” will be released in November by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

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