Sunday, November 06, 2011

Let God Sort Them Out

A Wall Street Journal article yesterday described internal dissension in the administration to Obama’s broad standards for when drone strikes are permitted, and noted that the “bulk” of the drone attacks — the bulk of them – “target groups of men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups, but whose identities aren’t always known.” As Spencer Ackerman put it: “The CIA is now killing people without knowing who they are, on suspicion of association with terrorist groups”; moreover, the administration refuses to describe what it even means by being “associated” with a Terrorist group (indeed, it steadfastly refuses to tell citizens anything about the legal principles governing its covert drone wars).

Of course, nobody inside the U.S. Government is objecting on the ground that it is wrong to blow people up without having any knowledge of who they are and without any evidence they have done anything wrong. Rather, the internal dissent is grounded in the concern that these drone attacks undermine U.S. objectives by increasing anti-American sentiment in the region…


Remember, though: we have to kill The Muslim Terrorists because they have no regard for human life.

  Glenn Greenwald

A week ago I joined a group of elders and dozens of other young men who had travelled from Waziristan, in northern Pakistan, to Islamabad to discuss the impact of US drone strikes in their communities.

Among the group was Tariq Aziz, a quiet 16-year-old, who had come after he received a phone call from a lawyer in Islamabad offering him an opportunity to learn basic photography to help document these strikes.


Tariq was proud to be part of this meeting. About 18 months earlier, in April 2010, his cousin Aswar Ullah was killed by a missile fired from a drone as he rode a motorcycle near Norak.


What none of us could have imagined was that 72 hours later, this football-loving teenager would himself be killed by a CIA drone, along with his 12-year-old cousin Waheed Khan.


On Monday, October 31, Tariq took his cousin [...] to pick up his newly wed aunt, to take her back to Norak. When the two boys were just 200 yards from the house, two missiles slammed into their car, killing them both instantly.


Tariq and Waheed’s death brought the total number of children killed in drone strikes to 175, according to the Bureau’s own findings. As part of an ongoing investigation, the Bureau has documented 306 strikes from remotely piloted drones that have killed between 2,359 and 2,959 people. Over 85% of them have been launched by the administration of President Barack Obama.

  Pratap Chatterjee, Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The only thing unusual about Tariq is that his death is receiving substantial attention because of the coincidence that he met with Westerners 72 hours before his life was ended. Most Tariqs simply die without anyone in the country responsible being bothered with hearing about it.

  Glenn Greenwald

Last month, the Bureau reported the 300th strike of the CIA’s seven-year drone campaign, and Bureau reporter Chris Woods suggested in an analysis piece that the pattern of recent strikes suggests the CIA has changed tactics to focus on killing senior militants, or High Value Targets.

  Alice Ross, Bureau of Investigative Journalism

As opposed to what? Any kids out and about when the controllers come back from break? And were Tariq and Waheed HVTs or did the controllers just not get the memo yet?

The changes include the State Department having more influence in strike decisions, Pakistani leaders being told about strikes in advance more often, and the CIA holding off from strikes when Pakistani officials are visiting the US, the report says.

Oh, that should satisfy them. What more could they possibly want? It’s nice the leaders will know – more often. At least they can stay out of the target area.

‘The bar has been raised. Inside CIA, there is a recognition you need to be damn sure it’s worth it,’ the Journal quotes a senior official saying.

Now all they have to do is figure out just how many innocent Pakistanis are “worth it.”

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