DRONE ATTACKS: The Latest Aspect Of Growing U.S. “SHADOW WARFARE”

By Sherwood Ross

Although President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser says caution is exercised when making drone attacks, official U.S. announcements often state that suspects are killed. This very word betrays the fact that every drone attack is a crime because it is illegal in any civilized society to kill suspects. The killings are murder, pure and simple.

Picture shows victim of drone attacks.Published at SITE: http://www.pakistankakhudahafiz.com/2012/05/07/pakistani-students-win-int%E2%80%99l-award-with-film-on-drone-attacks/

(Only last week, Washington announced it killed four “suspected militants” by drone attack in Pakistan, resulting in a formal protest from Islamabad “strongly condemning” the killings. “Such attacks are in total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations,” the  Pakistan statement stressed.)

And the Washington Post  quoted a Pakastani government official who reminded: “When a duly elected democratic Parliament says three times not to do this, and the U.S. keeps doing it, it undermines democracy.”

Presidential adviser John Brennan told a group of academicians at the Woodrow Wilson Center, “We only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed, except in the rarest of circumstances,” Charlie Savage of The New York Times reports in the April 30th edition.

But Brennan acknowledged “instances when — despite the extraordinary precautions we take — civilians have been accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes. It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened. When it does, it pains us and we regret it deeply, as we do any time innocents are killed in war.”

Exceedingly rare? As Juan Cole of the University of Michigan observed in “The Nation”  magazine, the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism(BIJ) found “not only are civilians routinely killed by U.S. drone strikes in northern Pakistan” but “often people rushing to the scene of a strike to help the wounded are killed by a second launch.” Presumably, some of  these victims may include medical personnel and relatives.

The BIJ estimates the U.S. has killed some 3,000 people in 319 drone strikes. Of these, 600 were civilian bystanders and approximately one in four of those were children.

“At the very time Brennan made his speech, there emerged further confirmation of CIA ‘signature strikes’ that were launched at people who allegedly may be engaged in a pattern of activity that could somehow suggest their involvement in some form of terrorism on the basis of dubious intelligence,” said Francis Boyle, the distinguished professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

“These ‘signature strikes’ are indiscriminate and thus illegal and war crimes. And the fact that  all these drone strikes constitute widespread and systematic war crimes mean they also constitute Crimes against Humanity as defined by the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court and customary international criminal law,” Boyle added.

“Obama, Brennan, Petraeus and the CIA operatives involved must be held criminally accountable for these war crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, inter alia,” said Boyle, author of “Tackling America’s Toughest Questions”(Clarity).

Obama, who presents himself as the doting father of two daughters, is systematically and criminally taking the lives of other parents’ children in his blind passion to destroy his enemies. He has radically stepped up drone attacks over his predecessor, George W. Bush, and makes no apologies for their commission. The drones are now so “hot” in the Pentagon arsenal that manufacturers cannot keep pace with the demand for them. The U.S. has 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, Cole writes, which it has deployed in strikes in six countries under direction of the CIA and Pentagon.

Cole points out the drone strikes are largely carried out in places where no war has been declared; neither has any Status of Forces Agreement been signed. “They operate outside the framework of the Constitution, with no due process or habeas corpus, recalling premodern practices of the English monarchy, such as declaring people outlaws, issuing bills of attainder against individuals who offend the crown and trying them in secret Star Chamber proceedings.”

“The only due process afforded those killed from the air is an intelligence assessment, possibly based on dubious sources and not reviewed by a judge,” Cole writes. “There is no consistency, no application of the rule of law. Guilt by association and absence of due process are the hallmarks of shadow government.”

Of the 3,000 slayings in Pakistan by drone strikes, writes Bill Van Auken on Urukunet, only 170 victims have been identified as “known militants.”

According to Van Auken, Brennan told his Woodrow Wilson Center audience, “The constitution empowers the president to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack” but that assertion “is a lie.” Van Auken explained, “As U.S. officials acknowledged, Sunday’s attack in Pakistan was directed at elements who were allegedly preparing not to attack the US, but rather to resist the US military occupation of Afghanistan.”

The accelerating drone strikes are only one aspect of the emerging covert operations that were once a minor arrow in the national security quiver, “The Nation” writer Cole states, but today are “the cutting edge of American power.”

“Drone strikes, electronic surveillance and stealth engagements by military units such as the Joint Special Operations Command, as well as dependence on private corporations, mercenary armies and terrorist groups, are now arguably more common as tools of U.S. foreign policy than conventional warfare or diplomacy,” Cole writes.


(Author Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations consultant  “for good causes” who writes on political and military topics. He formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News and worked as a columnist for wire services).

This article is shared directly by author to run on pakpotpourri.

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  • khan saheb  On May 7, 2012 at 6:07 am

    More of the same……………..

    I could not find one sentence that wa snew or added something to our knowledge base. It would seem that the easiest thing to write on is about the drones and the fake groans that go with it.

    US is doing nothing without the explicit approval of the PK leadership. Its the same strategy that worked so well in the Abbotabad drama. It is better to look clueless and helpless, rather than complicit. A few words of whimpering condemnation go a long way. People are more forgiving. Its all part of the drama and its working great even now.


  • Sherwood Ross  On May 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Siraj, you are right about this article. There is nothing new in it. It is drawn from published sources. It was put together and submitted because there are some people in the world who are not as smart and well informed as you are and who might learn something from the conclusion that all drone attacks are criminal. All best, Sherwood Ross

  • K. Hussan Zia  On May 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    We need to be thankful to Sherwood Ross for keeping the issue alive by jolting our conscience.This is more than most of us who are directly affected have done, If there is nothing new in the article it is because there has been no change in the horrendous highhandedness and contemptuous disregard and trivialisation of lives of Pakistani.

    Bad things happen only when good people allow these to happen. The dying shame is not simply because the government is involved and complicit. Until recently the army, by its own admission, has been actively cooperating in these crimes against humanity.

    The media too have done their best to cover these up as best as they could by not publishing any accounts and pictures from the scenes of the atrocities.

    Last but not the least, all the rest of us have indirectly contributed and encouraged the perpetrators through our seemingly shameful apathy and indifference. Unless there is a change in attitude in every sector of society and at all levels this abomination will continue and innocent Pakistanis will continue to be massacred with abandon.

    K. Hussan Zia.

    • Siraj Khan  On May 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      Question: What is stopping the media (specially foreign media) highlighting and reporting, that not only is PK involved and complicit, they are actually facilitating the process. Killing their own citizens is bad. The drones killed the PK soldiers and the Army chief went down there to offer fateha. That is criminal. Suppressing a fact like that in any analytical work, leaves a sterling effort glaringly incomplete.

      Please forgive me for saying but if everybody was to share the sentiments expressed in your last paragraph, any exercise towards any sensible discourse would tantamount to an exercise in futility.

      Perhaps, we should dust the cobwebs a bit and learn a bit from history. Roman emperor Nero would be a good subject to start with.

      • K. Hussan Zia  On May 7, 2012 at 7:05 pm

        Thank you Siraj Khan Sahib. I am not sure I follow exactly what you mean by the latter part of your comment.

        As for the media, in situations like these there is an old adage that may be applicable —- ‘follow the money trail’.

  • Siraj Khan  On May 7, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Sherwood, I think there were two points which I made and perhaps did not carry the required clarity.

    1. That nothing that you wrote was being disputed as factually incorrect.

    2. What your piece was silent about was the fact that these operations are carried out with the consent of the PK leadership. Its just that they don’t want to portray themselves as if they are involved and that looking insulted but helpless is better than being labeled as complicit. Hence, their (staged and muffled) groans to the drones. Is this act not criminal too? If yes, why is that considered acceptable and is being swept under the rug?

  • Muhammad Aslam Durrani fsicsc  On May 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    “It’s not the bullet with my name on it that worries me.
    It’s the one that says ‘To whom it may concern!”

    [some unknown Irish revolutionary]

    Can’t be legalized without the murder of the law itself. They have shrewdly named them ‘signature strikes’ but they are ‘war crimes’ of an illegal series of wars, as every fourth of the killed is a child, and then among the victims are the mothers of these children and male civilians and yet the others offering resistance to the foreign occupation and aggression.

    Those in America can, without a prick of conscience, deny peace and freedom to those in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia or elsewhere in the southern hemisphere of the human planet (they are not America). The Land of the Free has grossly misconstrued its own statesman Daniel Webster who said,

    “May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our country!”

    and if it does…

    Long live America!


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