Archive for drone attacks

Reuters Figures it Out: Yemenis “Deeply Resentful” of Drone Attacks which “Often” Kill Civilians

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2012 by loonwatch

Why_do_they_hate_us_Muslims

It’s not rocket science, if you are going to employ tactics in which you kill 10s or 100s of more civilians for each terrorist then you are not going to be liked.

Reuters seems to have figured this out:

But many say U.S. drone attacks, which have often killed civilians and are deeply resented by Yemenis, may do more harm than good, potentially discrediting Hadi as a lackey of Washington and turning the wider population against him.

Now if we could only get the policy-makers and military strategists to realize this.

Deadly Drones Come to the Muslims of the Philippines

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2012 by loonwatch

Deadly drones come to the Muslims of the Philippines

by Akbar Ahmed and Frankie Martin (AlJazeera English)

Washington, DC – Early last month, Tausug villagers on the Southern Philippine island of Jolo heard a buzzing sound not heard before. It is a sound familiar to the people of Waziristan who live along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, where the United States fights the Taliban. It was the dreaded drone, which arrives from distant and unknown destinations to cause death and destruction. Within minutes, 15 people lay dead and a community plunged into despair, fear and mourning.

The US drone strike, targeting accused leaders in the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah organisations, marked the first time the weapon has been used in Southeast Asia. The drone has so far been used against Muslim groups and the Tausug are the latest on the list.

Just as in Pakistan and other theatres of the “war on terror”, the strike has provoked controversy, with a Filipino lawmaker condemning the attack as a violation of national sovereignty. This controversy could increase with the recent American announcement that it plans to boost its drone fleet in the Philippines by 30 per cent. The US already has hundreds of troops stationed on Jolo Island, but until now, the Americans have maintained a non-combat “advisory” role.

The expansion of US’ drone war has the potential to further enflame a volatile conflict involving the southern Muslim areas and Manila, which has killed around 120,000 people over the past four decades. To understand what is happening in the Philippines and the US’ role in the conflict, we need to look at the Tausug, among the most populous and dominant of the 13 groups of Muslims in the South Philippines known as “Moro”, a pejorative name given by Spanish colonisers centuries ago.

Sulu Sultanate

For hundreds of years, the Tausug had their own independent kingdom, the Sulu Sultanate, which was established in 1457 and centered in Jolo. The Sultanate became the largest and most influential political power in the Philippines with highly developed trade links across the region. From this base among the Tausug, Islam took root in neighbouring Mindanao Island among the Maguindanao and other groups.

The antagonistic relationship between the Moro periphery and the centre in Manila developed during the Spanish colonial era. The Spanish had arrived not long after expelling the Muslims from Spain and, intoxicated by that historical victory, were determined to exterminate Islam in the region and unite the Philippines under Christian rule.

In the instructions given by the Spanish governor on the eve of the first campaign against the southern Muslims in 1578, he ordered that “there be not among them anymore preachers of the doctrines of Mahoma since it is evil and false” and called for all mosques to be destroyed. The governor’s instructions set the tone for centuries of continuous warfare. The idea of a predatory central authority is deeply embedded in Tausug mythology and psychology.

Of all the Moro groups, the Tausug has been considered the most independent and difficult to conquer, with not a single generation of Tausug experiencing life without war over the past 450 years.

As any anthropologist will testify, the Tausug have survived half a millennium of persecution and attempts at conversion because of their highly developed code and clan structure. It is the classic tribe: egalitarian and feuding clans that unite in the face of the outside enemy and a code which emphasizes honor, revenge, loyalty and hospitality.

It was only in the late 19th century that Spain succeeded in incorporating the Sulu Sultanate as a protectorate and established a military presence on Jolo. The Spanish were followed by American colonisers who could be as brutal as their predecessors. In a 1906 battle, US troops killed as many as 1,000 Tausug men, women and children, and between 500 and 2,000 in a 1913 engagement.

Despite the Moro resistance to US colonial rule, they advocated for either continued American administration or their own country, rather than be incorporated into an independent Philippines, which they believed would continue the policies of the Spanish against their religion and culture. The request, however, was rejected.

‘Special provinces’

Following independence in 1946, the Muslim regions were ruled as “special provinces” with most of the important government posts reserved for Christian Filipinos. Despite being granted electoral representation in the 1950s, the majority of Moro had little interest in dealing with the central government. Manila, for its part, largely neglected the region.

The Tausug areas remained impoverished and, in the absence of jobs, young men turned to looting and piracy. In response, Manila opted for heavy-handed military tactics and based its largest command of security forces in the nation among the Tausug.

Central government actions to subdue the Tausug areas in the 1950s resulted in the deaths of almost all fighting age men in certain regions. The society was torn apart, with the young generation growing up without traditional leadership.

The current conflict began in 1968 with what became known as the Jabidah Massacre, when around 60 mainly Tausug recruits in the Philippine Army were summarily executed after they refused a mission to attack the Malaysian region of Sabah, where a population of Tausug also resides.

In 1971, the Moro, incensed by Jabidah and accusing the central government of conducting “genocide”, began an open war against the state. A Tausug-dominated independence movement soon developed called the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).  In 1976, the government reached an agreement with the MNLF to grant the Moro areas autonomy, which was further developed in a 1996 treaty that is still being negotiated.

For many Moro living on Mindanao, however, the deal was unsatisfactory because of the presence of so many Christian settlers, who they complained were taking more and more of their land under what seemed like government policy.

Indeed, the population had dramatically changed from 76 per cent Muslim in 1903 to 72.5 per cent Christian by 2000. The government was arming Christian settlers to attack Muslims. In 1971, the most notorious Christian militia, the Ilaga, killed 70 Moro in a mosque. Muslim militias lashed back, leading to a cycle of violence.

A new group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), based in Mindanao’s Maguindanao ethnic group, soon split from the MNLF and vowed to push for secession.

‘Abu Sayyaf’ label

Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States became involved in the region in pursuit of the elusive Abu Sayyaf, which it accused of having links with al-Qaeda. The group was formed by a charismatic Tausug preacher in the late 1980s, whose speeches attracted angry young men from a community rife with orphans due to the previous decades of war.

Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for kidnappings, bombings and beheadings, gripping the Philippines with sensational media reports. Manila has been accused of applying the “Abu Sayyaf” label to any conflict in the region, including those involving small armed Tausug groups, many of them kinship based, which have existed for centuries.

Aid workers kidnapped in 2009, for example, reported that their “Abu Sayyaf” captor told them “I can be ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), I can be MILF, I can be [MILF or MNLF breakaway group] Lost Command”.

Manila was discovering, like many other nations after 9/11, that by associating its restless communities on the periphery with al-Qaeda, it could garner easy American support.

To resolve the conflict between the Moro and Manila, President Benigno Aquino must demonstrate that the centuries of conflict and forced assimilation into a monolithic Filipino culture are over. The government needs to promote pluralism and build trust with the periphery.

With the recent declarations by President Aquino’s government that the state is fully invested in implementing the 1996 autonomy agreement with the MNLF and hopes to have a peace treaty in place with the MILF by 2013, the various parties have a unique opportunity to work for a longstanding solution.

Development projects to help the suffering Tausug must be conducted urgently as the situation for ordinary people is dire. Amidst the frequent barrages of artillery and bombs and the displacement of hundreds of thousands over the past decade, a 2005 study found that 92 per cent of water sources in Sulu Province, where the majority of Tausug live, were contaminated, while the malnutrition rate for children under five is 50 per cent. Education and employment are constant challenges.

The sad state of affairs does not only result from a lack of funds, as the Philippines government, the United States and others have poured millions into the region, but rather how funds are spent. The association of development with the military among the population has been an impediment to implementing necessary projects.

Mediation needed

Between inefficient aid funding and the ongoing military campaigns, Manila has been drained of desperately needed resources and diverted from fulfilling its ambitions to become an economic powerhouse.

Development solutions can only work if they have the full support of the clans that decide local politics, which is no easy task, considering the tenacity with which clans can fight over resources. Yet with a holistic plan of engagement in the context of true autonomy, it is possible to bring them together.

Mediation, involving local religious leaders and international bodies like the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which has taken the lead in peace talks between the Moro factions and the government, can play a key role in this regard.

Major General Reuben Rafael, the Philippine commander formerly in charge of military operations in Sulu Province, gave us an example of how to proceed. In 2007, he staged a public apology for transgressions against the population. The assembled people began to cry, including the Tausug mayor of the town, who stated that never in the history of Sulu had a military general apologized to them in such a manner. This is the way to the heart of the Tausug, and we salute the general for showing us the path to peace.

By unleashing the drones, the US has pushed the conflict between centre and periphery in the Philippines in a dangerous direction. If there is one lesson we can learn from half a millennium of history it is this: weapons destroy flesh and blood, but cannot break the spirit of a people motivated by ideas of honour and justice.

Instead, the US and Manila should work with the Muslims of the Philippines to ensure full rights of identity, development, dignity, human rights and self-determination. Only then will the security situation improve and the Moro permitted to live the prosperous and secure lives they have been denied for so long; and only then will the Philippines be able to become the Asian Tiger it aspires to be.

Professor Akbar Ahmed is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC and the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Frankie Martin is an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service and is assisting Professor Ahmed on Ahmed’s forthcoming study, Journey into Tribal Islam: America and the Conflict between Center and Periphery in the Muslim World, to be published by Brookings Press.

Pakistani belief about drones: perceptive or paranoid?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

By: Glenn Greenwald

Two weeks ago, President Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, excoriated the White House for its reliance on drones in multiple Muslim nations, pointing out, as Politico put it, that those attacks “are fueling anti-American sentiment and undercutting reform efforts in those countries.”  Blair said: ”we’re alienating the countries concerned, because we’re treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us.”  Blair has an Op-Ed today in The New York Times making a similar argument with a focus on Pakistan, though he uses a conspicuously strange point to make his case:

Qaeda officials who are killed by drones will be replaced. The group’s structure will survive and it will still be able to inspire, finance and train individuals and teams to kill Americans. Drone strikes hinder Qaeda fighters while they move and hide, but they can endure the attacks and continue to function.Moreover, as the drone campaign wears on, hatred of America is increasing in Pakistan. American officials may praise the precision of the drone attacks. But in Pakistan, news media accounts of heavy civilian casualties are widely believed. Our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our soldiers is bitterly resented in a country that cannot duplicate such feats of warfare without cost to its own troops.

Though he obviously knows the answer, Blair does not say whether this widespread Pakistani perception about civilian casualties is based in fact; if anything, he insinuates that this “belief” is grounded in the much-discussed affection which Pakistanis allegedly harbor for fabricated anti-American conspiracy theories.  While the Pakistani perception is significant unto itself regardless of whether it’s accurate — the belief about drones is what fuels anti-American hatred — it’s nonetheless bizarre to mount an anti-drone argument while relegating the impact of civilian deaths to mere “belief,” all while avoiding informing readers what the actual reality is.  Discussions of the innocent victims of American military violence is one of the great taboos in establishment circles; that Blair goes so far out of his way to avoid discussing it highlights how potent that taboo is.

Last month, I interviewed Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which had just published a report conclusively documenting the falsity of John Brennan’s public claim that “in the last year, ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death‘” from U.S. drone attacks.  Last week, the Bureau published an even more detailed report focusing on the number of Pakistani children killed by American drone attacks:

The Bureau has identified credible reports of 168 children killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. These children would account for 44% of the minimum figure of 385 civilians reported killed by the attacks. . . .The highest number of child deaths occurred during the Bush presidency, with 112 children reportedly killed. More than a third of all Bush drone strikes appear to have resulted in the deaths of children. . . . President Obama, too, has been as Commander-in-Chief responsible for many child deaths in Pakistan. The Bureau has identified 56 children reported killed in drone strikes during his presidency . . . .

The report indicates that the number of Pakistani children dying from drone attacks has decreased substantially over the past several months — since September, 2010, when one man’s son, two daughters and nephew were all killed by a single U.S. strike — but such deaths nonetheless continue (including one in April of this year, in which a 12-year-old boy, Atif, was killed).  These facts make John Brennan’s blatant lie particularly disgusting: it’s one thing to kill children using remote-controlled weaponized air robots in a country in which we’re not formally at war, but it’s another thing entirely to stand up in public and deny that it is happening.

In several ways, the Bureau’s study significantly understates the extent of U.S.-caused civilian deaths in the region.  As Woods told me, the Bureau uses such a rigorous methodology — counting civilian deaths only when they can be definitively confirmed up to and including the victims’ names — that some deaths almost certainly go uncounted in the notoriously inaccessible Waziristan region.  Other credible reports provide an even starker assessment of the number of innocents killed.  Moreover, this latest report from the Bureau counts only child deaths, not those of innocent adult men and women in Pakistan, nor does it discuss the large number of civilian deaths from drones outside of Pakistan (Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq), nor the U.S.-caused deaths of civilians from means other than drones (such as the “amazing number” of innocents killed at checkpoints in Afghanistan).

Adm. Blair’s Op-Ed may have had a much greater impact had it included a discussion of these facts, rather than implying that the problem with American drone attacks is Pakistani paranoia.  That’s precisely why the Op-Ed — like most discussions in establishment venues of this topic — didn’t include those facts.

U.S. Bombs and Kills 168 Pakistani Children, Why Are the Pakistanis Such Ungrateful and Cruddy Allies?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Many Americans wonder why Pakistan is such an ungrateful and cruddy ally.  Do any of them stop to think that perhaps the U.S. is an even cruddier ally?  At least Pakistan doesn’t kill our children.  File this away under Why They Hate Us:

Study: CIA drones strikes have killed 168 children

The Obama administration says a year of drone strikes in Pakistan killed zero civilians; outside experts disagree

By: Justin Elliot

Based on international and Pakistani news reports and research on the ground, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has issued a new study on civilians killed by American drones, concluding that at least 385 civilians have been killed in the past seven years, including at least 168 children.

Here’s a taste of the report, which can be read in full here (warning: graphic images):

Pakistani father Din Mohammad had the misfortune to live next door to militants in Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan. His neighbours were reportedly part of the Haqqani Network, a group fighting US forces in nearby Afghanistan.

On September 8 2010, the CIA’s Reaper drones paid a visit. Hellfire missiles tore into the compound killing six alleged militants.

One of the Hellfires missed its target, and Din Mohammad’s house was hit. He survived. But his son, his two daughters and his nephew all died. His eldest boy had been a student at a Waziristan military cadet college. The other three children were all below school age.

An Obama administration official told ABC that these numbers are “way off the mark” — but, tellingly, did so on the condition of anonymity, meaning he or she will be protected from any accountability.

Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Scott Shane has an important articlereviewing the same issue and in particular Obama counterterrorism adviser John Brennan’s claim in June that for the previous year CIA drone strikes hadn’t caused “a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Shane finds that basically every outside observer — including those of all ideological stripes — finds this claim to be preposterous:

Others who question the C.I.A. claim include strong supporters of the drone program like Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal, who closely tracks the strikes.

“The Taliban don’t go to a military base to build bombs or do training,” Mr. Roggio said. “There are families and neighbors around. I believe the people conducting the strikes work hard to reduce civilian casualties. They could be 20 percent. They could be 5 percent. But I think the C.I.A.’s claim of zero civilian casualties in a year is absurd.”

Brennan issued a new statement to the Times suggesting that the CIA has merely “not found credible evidence of collateral deaths” from the drone strikes:

“Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq, and we will continue to do our best to keep it that way,” Mr. Brennan said.

Given that the drones are operated remotely, it’s far from clear how the CIA even knows who is being killed in many of these strikes.

Attempted Times Square Car Bombing; Is it Forbidden to Ask “Why”?

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , on May 4, 2010 by loonwatch

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Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin, has been arrested in connection to theattempted Times Square car bombing.  Like other Americans, the Muslim (and Pakistani) American community is relieved that this attack failed and no lives were taken due to this dastardly deed.

The mainstream cable news networks have gone into overdrive, discussing the case in great detail and analyzing it in every which way.  Dozens of so-called “terrorism experts” talk in somber terms about the existential threat that Islamic radicalism poses.

Yet, it is amazing that none of them ask (and seek to really answer) the simple question: Why?  Whydo these extremist Muslims keep targeting the United States?  It seems to be the most obvious and intuitive question.

As of now we do not know the motivation of the alleged car bomber but one speculation is that the bomber was targeting Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, in response to the  South Park controversy.  But could there be another reason as to why he did what he did?

Representative Ron Paul dared to explore that question in a televised debatearguing: “They don’t come here to attack us because we are rich and we’re free. They come and they attack us because we’re over there [attacking them].”  When Dr. Paul said this seemingly common sense and painfully obvious thing, Rudy Guiliani–who virtually copyrighted 9/11–threw a hissy-fit and demanded Paul to issue an immediate apology, and went on to say that it was the most “absurd” explanation for 9/11 he’s ever heard.  The Republicans tried to silence Ron Paul, fearful that he would point out such an obvious fact that it may force them to reconsider their war-mongering views.

Similarly, the mainstream media engages in self-censorship, refusing to ask the most obvious question: why?  Why did this man of Pakistani descent attempt to bomb the United States of America?  Mayor Bloomberg tried to answer this question:

Terrorists around the world feel threatened by the freedoms we have in this country and want to take our freedoms away from us.

This preposterous answer reflects George Bush’s famous “terrorists hate us for our freedoms.”  Such a response divides the world neatly into good guys and bad guys.  Us vs. Them. We Americans are the good guys, and those evil Mooslems are the bad guys.  The bad guys hate us because of how good we are.

But could there be another reason that possibly motivated the bomber?  Could it have anything to do with what has caused widespread anti-American sentiment in his country of origin?  U.S. drone attacks on Pakistani soil have killed hundreds of Pakistani civilians.  According to Pakistani sources,upwards of 687 Pakistani civilians have died at the hands of U.S. drone attacks.  CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen placed the number a bit lower:

Since 2006, our analysis indicates, 83 U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have killed between 760 and 1,050 people. Among them were about 20 leaders of al Qaeda, the Taliban and allied groups, all of whom have been killed since January 2008…The real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 260 to 320, or one-third of those killed.

Regardless of whether the number is closer to 260 or 687, the point is: the U.S. is killing Pakistani civilians–men, women, and children.  At least one-third of those killed are civilians.

UN human rights investigator Philip Alston has said that the drone attacks may “violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law”, and demanded the United States to prove otherwise.  The ACLU declared that this drone policy “violates international law” and is “unconstitutional”, and has converted “the entire world” into a “war zone.”  In a strongly worded letterto the President of the United States, the ACLU wrote:

The program you have reportedly endorsed is not simply illegal but also unwise, because how our country responds to the threat of terrorism will in large measure determine the rules that govern every nation’s conduct in similar contexts. If the United States claims the authority to use lethal force against suspected enemies of the U.S. anywhere in the world – using unmanned drones or other means – then other countries will regard that conduct as justified. The prospect of foreign governments hunting and killing their enemies within our borders or those of our allies is abhorrent.

Only 9% of Pakistanis support the U.S. led drone attacks–and only 6% amongst the Pashto speaking people who live in the NWFP (the area being bombed).  Pakistani officials have declared the drone attacks on Pakistani soil to constitute an “act of war,” a feeling shared by the vast majority of the country’s citizenry.

Could it possibly be–I dare ask–that some Pakistanis would want to bomb Times Square because our country has committed what they perceive as numerous acts of war, which have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children?  How would we feel if Pakistani predator drones were killing hundreds of New Yorkers?  After 9/11, Americans had blood in their eyes, and that burning anger resulted in the U.S. invading two countries, bombing both into the stone ages and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.  Some Americans even contemplated nuking Mecca and Medina, the two holy cities of Islam.  So do we find it surprising that a handful of Pakistani extremists might want to strike inside the U.S.?

Pakistanis protest Hillary Clinton's visit, demanding an explanation for illegal drone attacksPakistanis protest Hillary Clinton’s visit, demanding an explanation for illegal drone attacks

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan, an angry Pakistani woman asked her why she didn’t consider drone attacks to be terrorism.  Whether or not the attacks fit the definition of terrorism, to the hundreds of dead civilians it is irrelevant (and largely only of academic interest) whether the bombs fall from the skies (drone attacks) or are packed into parked cars.  The result is the same.  But as long as Americans drop bombs from far distances, they feel immune to the feelings of guilt from the very real consequences.

There is, however, one major difference between the drone attacks and the terrorist attacks like the failed Times Square bombing.  The former are ordered by the United States government, whereas the latter are not carried out by any country’s government.  The Pakistanis would argue that at least their government didn’t order the Times Square bombing, whereas the drone attacks are ordered by the U.S. government.

There is a very real anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, and the question must be asked: why?  Whywould any of them want to attack us?  I believe I have presented the most likely reason.

Because I have the audacity to ask and answer this question, I will no doubt be accused of being unpatriotic.  Yet, I consider it extremely patriotic to speak the truth on this matter.  It is only by properly understanding the origins of terrorism that we can seek to end it, and thereby save American lives.  None of this condones what the Times Square bomber did.  I hope the man arrested for this terrorist act is given a fair trial and–if found guilty–punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Neither am I saying that the Muslim community has no role to play in tackling extremism within their ranks.  Although I reject Islamophobic claims that Muslims are “silent” when it comes to terrorism, I do believe that more must be done…much more.  Yet, the efforts of the Muslim community will invariably fail if the Islamic world’s main grievance–our interventionist foreign policy–is not reevaluated.

When attacked, we ought to be able to ask the question “why” without being accused of being unpatriotic or of condoning the act.  We must move beyond George Bush’s simplistic mentality.

Further reading: Glenn Greenwald on the threat of terrorism and Only 6% of terrorist acts inside the U.S. committed by Muslim extremists

Update:

It seems that I was right:

Times Square bombing in retaliation for U.S. drone attacks, No connection to Islam