Thursday, July 19, 2012

Between the Lines: The New Weapon of Choice

Blogger's Note:
While the story and news surrounding the death of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz has been out since last fall -- I wonder how many US citizens have heard of this hero? The following reminder and updates are more crucial than ever to our US military policies today.

Between the Lines: The New Weapon of Choice
Peace activists confront the open secret of drone attacks.
Photo Credit: Tariq Aziz Reprieve Files (see more info on photos below)

Thursday, July 19, 2012
By Rebecca Burns

At an October, 2011 meeting between Pakistani elders and human rights lawyers, 16-year-old Tariq Aziz stood up to volunteer for a dangerous assignment. The meeting, held in Islamabad by U.K. legal charity Reprieve, sought to expose the impact of drone strikes in the North Waziristan region, and Aziz hoped that by learning to photograph the strikes he could help protect his community.

Three days later, Aziz, along with his 12-year-old cousin, were themselves killed in a drone strike while on their way to pick up their aunt.

Aziz's determination to document the devastation caused by drones highlights one of the most disturbing aspects of their use: U.S. drone strikes are carried out in secret in at least six countries, with no judicial or Congressional oversight of the targets chosen by administration officials. Though a 2011 report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that up to 3,000 people—as many as 781 of them civilians—have been killed in drone attacks since 2004, noncombatant deaths in drone attacks were denied outright by U.S. officials until April of this year, when White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said that they were "exceedingly rare."

U.S. and Pakistani activists have pushed for more information about why Aziz was selected as a target. But while victims' names are often unknown by the public, the occurence of drone strikes has for years been an open secret, raising another question: Why, as the Obama administration has granted authority to the CIA and Pentagon to carry out strikes based only on the patterns of their victims' behavior, has there been so little organized resistance to drone warfare?

The peace movement, floundering in the wake of Obama's election (a 2011 study by Michael Heaney and Fabio Rojas notes that while his win was heralded as an anti-war victory, it demobilized large numbers of Democratic activists) was unprepared to respond to a shift in the way the U.S. wages wars. While many organizers praised Obama for completing the withdrawal from Iraq, military force with a "lighter footprint" was part of the new defense strategy announced soon afterward. Under the Obama administration, a drone strike has occurred on an average of once every four days in Pakistan.

As drones have fast become the weapon of choice—7,000 are already in use by the U.S. military, and 45 other countries are developing their own drone programs—the technology of warfare has vastly outpaced the laws governing its use. Groups like the International Committee for Robotic Arms Control (ICRAC) are advocating a new international regime to limit the use of drones. Such a framework would also place an outright ban on one of the most unsettling possibilities of robotic warfare: nuclear weapons being mounted on unmanned systems.

But this solution alone may be insufficient to reverse the underlying trend behind drone attacks: an increasingly privatized mode of combat that involves hundreds of contractors in intelligence analysis and other activities influencing the ultimate decision of whom to kill.

"The policy of contracting out war began before drone technology emerged, but the availability of drones has accelerated that trend," says David Cortright, director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. "By lowering the threshold of engagement, drones are contributing to the evolution of a state of permanent war."

The flipside of an expanding drone war abroad is a deepening surveillance regime at home. Combat drones make up only a fraction of the $6 billion industry, which is already marketing aerial drones to law enforcement agencies. Peace activists hope that the merging of counterterrorism and domestic law enforcement will raise alarms among privacy advocates and help build a broader coalition. "The fact that there's a threat of drones coming back to the United States gives us an opportunity to talk about drones overseas," says Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, who helped organize a "drone summit" in April that brought human rights and civil liberties groups together with robotics experts. She is also planning a delegation to Pakistan to meet with drone survivors this fall.

But even as public support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low, 83 percent of Americans still support the Obama administration's drone program, according to a recent poll. With little information available to the public about where drones strikes are being deployed, peace activists are stepping up efforts to oppose them where they originate. In April 2009, 14 activists were arrested at Creech Air Force Base, headquarters of the U.S. Air Force's 432nd Air Wing of Predator and Reaper drones. The trial of the "Creech 14," charged with trespassing, resulted in extensive testimony on the illegality of drones and has inspired regular protests at the air base.

"If the peace community doesn't even realize the extent of this, then the general public certainly doesn't," says Brian Terrell, one of the arrested activists. "Taking this issue out of the darkness and putting it into the light is absolutely crucial."

Photo Credit: Reprieve

FIND original posting here

Following is my response to the above article:

Thank you for your exposure of this blatant war crime. We must challenge the American public to do their own research and not so easily accept studies and media reports (often choreagraphed in the White House) designed to sanction US drones and targeted killings.Tariq Azzis is a true hero and I hope many more news sources will highlight his desire to help protect his community and brutal, untimely death.Reprieve, as usual, is in the helm on international law and human rights. A little diligent research easily exposes how misleading official drone statements and stats are. What could be more dangerous to the US than for our military and leaders to continue to fire-up more and more righteous revenge abroad? How could any one strategy be more effective at recruiting for extremists than these strange and heartless war tactics? What more does America have to say about justice?

Find this comment also here and add your own comment.

Photo Credit:

More References to this story:

Tariq Aziz - Reprieve
here Nov 6, 2011
here Jun 21, 2012

The vagaries of 'precision' in targeted killing | ICRAC
here Jun 29, 2012

Shahzad Akbar describes the drone strike that killed 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, who the UK-based Reprieve group was going to help take pictures of drone victims.
US ambassador to Pakistan threatened with lawsuit over drone
here or go here May 11, 2012 - 5 min - Uploaded by kgosztola.

Find plenty more corroborated stories of the deep moral and strategic problems with drones in the two posts below on this site as well as with a little research of your own.


CN said...

Items and book info on/from Medea Benjamin (leading peace activist with UN history ; expert on Drones)

CN said...

This site features a number of articles about the drones and related items concerned with US crimes abroad and at home:
World Can't Wait

Be sure to check out the ongoing dissemination of similar items by David Swanson, Reprieve/UK, Common Dreams, Democracy Now! Andy Worthington, Chris Hedges, The Nation Magazine and to read Pakistani and Afghan journalists.

CN said...
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Noor said...

Connie, I definitely didn't know about Tariq. thank you for this article.

CN said...

I didn't know about him until recently either. What a beautiful young man he must have been -- carrying so much on his shoulders...while so many other young people around the world are more interested in their own pleasures non-stop. Thanx for letting me know this was new to you.

All my are definitely making a huge difference in this world by being all you can and are. You are MUCH farther than I ever was at your age...

Keep on keeping on...

Allah Hafiz!

CN said...
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