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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pakistan - a sovereign nation?

A pair of US drone strikes in the Mir Ali village of North Waziristan have left at least 25 people dead. The drones targeted a pair of vehicles but also appear to have killed a number of people around those vehicles as well.

Though the Pakistani government, as usual, was quick to declare every single person killed an “alleged militant,” officials also conceded that they had no idea who any of the people killed were, suggesting that once again the shoot first and inquire later (if ever) policy of the drone program has probably killed a number of random tribesmen.

The drone program has caused a record number of deaths in 2010, and has come under renewed scrutiny amid reports that, as with the 2009 strikes, there are major numbers of civilian deaths going completely unreported in the international media.

The Obama Administration has been repeatedly demanding a full Pakistani invasion of North Waziristan, but in recent days suggestions have leaked that the administration may be planning to send US troops across the border instead. Pakistan’s government has approved its own military invading North Waziristan, but has rejected the notion of a US invasion.
(Antiwar Newswire)

*


As another drone attack killed more than 20 people on North Waziristan on Monday, all leading political parties of the country unanimously declared that these attacks were tantamount to compromising the sovereignty of Pakistan and the government and the Pakistan Army should take immediate measures to stop them.

Leaders of these parties said the government and authorities should sort out the matter in accordance with parliament’s unanimous resolutions and take action against the extremists by itself wherever it is needed.

Further reading.

Drone attacks stimulate terror

In 2006, 657 terrorist attacks, including 41 of sectarian nature, took place in Pakistan, leaving 907 people dead and 1,543 others injured according to a Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) security report.

It said that in 2007, 3,448 people died in 1,503 terrorist attacks and clashes, including suicide attacks, killings, and assassinations while 5,353 were injured. These casualties were 128% and 491% higher as compared with 2006 and 2005, respectively. The report stated that Pakistan faced 60 suicide attacks (mostly targeted at security forces) during 2007, which killed at least 770, besides injuring another 1,574 people. In 2008, the country saw 2,148 terrorist attacks, which caused 2,267 fatalities and 4,558 injuries. HRCP in its annual report indicated that there were at least 67 suicide attacks across Pakistan killing 973 people and injuring 2,318.

The PIPS report says in 2009, 2,586 terrorist, insurgent and sectarian-related incidents were reported that killed 3,021 people and injured 7,334. These casualties were 48% higher as compared to 2008. On the other hand, the rate of suicide attacks surged by one third to 87 bombings that killed 1,300 people and injured 3,600, it has reported. The year 2010 has not ended yet but the terrorist attacks are continuing. So, it is about time the US government took the drone attack issue seriously and put an end to such attacks, once and for all.

Further reading

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Veterans For Peace Protest War Outside White House

December 17, 2010

Veterans For Peace Protest War Outside White House

Ray McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg and Chris Hedges amongst dozens of protesters arrested outside White House

More at The Real News

We thank and congratulate the people doing this protest and we wish them strength and determination!

Just in, via The Raw Story, this YouTube:


CIA chief in Pakistan leaves after drone trial blows his cover

By The Guardian
Declan Walsh in Islamabad, 17 Dec. 2010 

Jonathan Banks, station chief In Islamabad, back in US after calls for him to be charged with murder over drone attack.

The CIA has pulled its station chief from Islamabad, one of America's most important spy posts, after his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.

The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed.

In a rare move, the CIA called Banks home yesterday, citing "security concerns" and saying he had received death threats, Washington officials told Associated Press. Khan's lawyer said he was fleeing the possibility of prosecution.

"This is just diplomatic language they are using. Banks is a liability to the CIA because he's likely to be called to court. They want to save him, and themselves, the embarrassment," said lawyer Shahzad Akbar. Pakistani media reports have claimed that Banks entered the country on a business visa, and therefore does not enjoy diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

The recall comes at a sensitive moment for Washington. This week's Afghanistan policy review brought fresh focus on Taliban safe havens in Pakistan's tribal belt. Meanwhile CIA drone attacks – which are co-ordinated from the Islamabad embassy – have reached a new peak. Three drones struck targets in Khyber, a previously untouched tribal agency, on Friday, reportedly killing 24 people and signalling a widening of the CIA covert campaign.

The drones enjoy quiet support from the Pakistani government and military but are intensely unpopular among the wider public. Public anger over civilian casualties has focused on Karim Khan, who first publicised his case with a $500m (£323m) civil law suit that named Banks, CIA director Leon Panetta and the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, as respondents.

Few legal experts expect the case to succeed, but it has renewed uneasiness over drones. There have been over 100 strikes so this year, twice as many as in 2009.

The identity of the CIA station chief is a closely guarded secret in any country. Khan's lawyer said he had obtained Banks's name from one Pakistani journalist and confirmed it with a second. "I asked around, then got an answer after three or four days of searching," he said.

Read the rest here.

Extending drone attacks killing 54 persons

Thursday Dec. 16th’s US drone strikes against the Khyber Agency, which killed seven suspects, appeared to be only the tip of the iceberg, as Pakistani officials now report that the United States has launched a salvo of missiles against the agency, killing at least 54.

The major strikes hit in the Spin Darang village, and were said to be targeting a meeting among suspected Lashkar-e Islam members, a group with a strong presence in Khyber which, like virtually every other faction of Pashtuns in the tribal areas, is often referred to as a “Pakistani Taliban” faction.

It is unclear what prompted the Obama Administration’s sudden interest in spreading its drone war into Khyber, far north from its usual targets in North and South Waziristan, nor is it immediately apparent why such moves were taken against the Lashkar-e Islam, a group which has clashed with the Pakistani government but does not appear to be a major player in Afghanistan.

It may simply be a case of escalation for escalation’s sake, as the Obama Administration struggles to claim some measure of progress in the nearly decade long occupation of Afghanistan and seems to be lashing out in odd directions in an effort to turn those claims into something at least vaguely credible.
(Antiwar Newswire)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hope and action

Dozens of activists, including the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War, were arrested Thursday at the White House as they protested the Afghanistan conflict and defended WikiLeaks.

As President Barack Obama unveiled a war review strategy inside, more than 100 war opponents -- many of them veterans -- marched through snow to the White House, chanting "Peace now!" and refusing to step down from the fence's ledge.
Police waited before gradually sealing off the area and escorting remaining protesters -- who had vowed to stay until their arrest -- into two waiting buses.
Daniel Ellsberg, who as a government consultant leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed war planning in Vietnam, saluted Bradley Manning, the young army officer suspected of leaking secret US documents to website WikiLeaks.

Ellsberg predicted that Obama would intensify the Afghanistan war as "presidents don't like to say they were wrong."
"I'm afraid that will happen indefinitely unless more people follow the example of Bradley Manning, whose courageous act of civil disobedience probably confronts him with life in prison," Ellsberg said to cheers.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the Code Pink women's peace movement, noted that Afghanistan ranks near the worst in rankings on development and corruption despite billions of dollars a month in the US war effort.
"It is high time that President Obama get a clue and understand that we need, as our signs says here, a real peace president," she said.
"We need men that understand that the best thing we can do for our security and the security of the people of Afghanistan is to take the money that we are spending on war and invest it in people, invest it in health care, invest it in education at home and in Afghanistan," she said.

Obama, an early opponent of the Iraq war, has tripled troop numbers in Afghanistan but pledged to start a withdrawal next year. The United States sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda, which had found sanctuary in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
In the review, Obama said there was "significant progress" in curbing the Taliban and stifling Al-Qaeda, but warned more time was needed.
(AFP)



On Thursday, author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges and Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg were among the 131 anti-war activists arrested during a nonviolent demonstration outside the White House to protest against the war in Afghanistan as well as America’s ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Pakistan.

Hedges delivered a rousing speech about the nature of hope (in contrast to what certain campaign slogans might have suggested in recent years), pointing out that “hope has a cost, hope is not comfortable,” before joining other supporters of Veterans for Peace who chained themselves to the White House fence. When asked why he chose that course of action, Hedges replied, “Because it’s all we have left at this point ... The normal mechanisms by which democratic participation are rendered possible in this country have been closed shut, and if we don’t do this, we die. This is what’s left of hope in this country.”

For his part, Ellsberg said he was drawn to the demonstration in part because veterans were leading the action. “I know that people here understand this war is as hopeless and wrong as the war we participated in in Vietnam, and it is not going to end by a presidential initiative,” he said. “It’ll only be because the American public has awakened to their responsibilities and to the realities of this war.” The “big lie” that the American government is telling its people now, Ellsberg believes, “is that these wars are protecting us at home.” (Truthdig)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Victims drones attacks are left helpless


At least 2100 civilians were killed and various others injured during 2009 in the ongoing war on terror, dronre attacks and activities against the terrorists, according to a report released by a US non-government organistation.

According to the report by Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the bereaved families of these people have been left helpless without any proper succour provided to them.

The conflict in Pakistan has exacted an immense toll on civilians, but the US and Pakistani governments, aid agencies and even military officials pay little attention to their plight says a US pressure group which works for civilian victims caught in armed conflicts.

The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, a Washington-based NGO, notes that there were probably more civilian casualties – 2,100 deaths – in Pakistan in 2009 than in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The civilian casualties, the group warns, will have substantial humanitarian and security consequences, causing the Pakistani government to lose its credibility.

“Losses have a long-lasting and devastating impact on civilians’ lives, provoke anger, and undermine the legitimacy of the Pakistani government,” warns the author, Christopher Rogers.

“CIVIC’s research in Pakistan shows that war victims demand and expect warring parties to recognise their losses and make amends to help them recover.”

But the report regrets that despite the severity and consequences of these losses, civilian casualties “receive too little attention from US, Pakistani, and donor-nation policymakers, as well as military officials”.

The report, however, notes the Pakistani government has created a compensation mechanism for deaths, injuries and property damage and the US Congress last year appropriated $10 million or a special fund to aid civilian war victims in Pakistan.

Despite these burgeoning efforts, CIVIC’s research shows serious deficiencies and gaps in care that leave many victims without recognition or assistance. Many war victims are losing hope that the Pakistani government will make good on its promise to provide compensation. Others must cope with devastating conflict losses while also being displaced, particularly following record floods in August.

Some of the findings of the research are as follows: Significant civilian casualties are caused by Pakistani military operations; US drone strikes, militant and terror attacks, and other forms of conflict-related violence such as unexploded ordnance and sectarian clashes.

Interviewees expected better behaviour in combat operations from Pakistani and US forces than from militants.

There is no governmental or military mechanism that systematically and publicly investigates or collects data on civilian casualties. The lack of accurate information on civilian casualties, including tracking of incidents, causes, and locations, inhibits the ability of civilian and military authorities to learn lessons and minimise civilian casualties. It also prevents authorities as well as humanitarian and development organisations from identifying and assisting war victims.

Deaths, injuries and property losses are greatly compounded by widespread poverty and displacement.

The death of a husband often means the loss of a key breadwinner. The death of a wife often leaves children and their household without the primary caretaker.

News Pakistan.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jury for Tacoma Trident Peace Activists Still Out


Thanks to Disarm Now Plowshares for sharing this article from the Huffington Post

By Bill Quigley, Dec. 10, 2010

The federal criminal trial of five veteran peace activists facing several charges was recessed until Monday after their jury announced late Friday they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one of the counts. The Tacoma Washington trial has been going on since Tuesday. The five defendants, called the Disarm Now Plowshares, challenged the legality and morality of the US storage and use of thermonuclear missiles by Trident nuclear submarines at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base outside Bremerton Washington.

The peace activists argued three points: the missiles are weapons of mass destruction; the weapons are both illegal and immoral; and that all citizens have the right to try to stop international war crimes being committed by these weapons of mass destruction. "It is not a crime to reveal a crime," they argued. Supporters from around the world packed the main courtroom every day of the trial. Numerous others followed the trial in an overflow court room.

The five were charged with trespass, felony damage to federal property, felony injury to property and felony conspiracy to damage property. Each faces possible sentences of up to ten years in prison.

On trial are: Sr. Anne Montgomery, 83, a Sacred Heart sister from New York; Fr. Bill Bischel, 81, a Jesuit priest from Tacoma Washington; Susan Crane, 67, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, Maryland; Lynne Greenwald, 60, a nurse from Bremerton Washington; and Fr. Steve Kelly, 60, a Jesuit priest from Oakland California. Bill Bischel and Lynne Greenwald are active members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, a community resisting Trident nuclear weapons since 1977.

The five admitted from the start that they cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Navy base during the night of All Souls, November 2, 2009. They then walked undetected for hours nearly four miles inside the base to their target, the Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific. This top security area is where activists say hundreds of nuclear missiles are stored in bunkers. There they cut through two more barbed wire fences and went inside. They put up two big banners which said "Disarm Now Plowshares: Trident Illegal and Immoral," scattered sunflower seeds, and prayed until they were arrested at dawn. Once arrested, the five were cuffed and hooded with sand bags because the marine in charge testified "when we secure prisoners anywhere in Iraq or Afghanistan we hood them...so we did it to them."

Eight Trident nuclear submarines have their home port at the Kitsap-Bangor base. Each Trident submarine has 24 nuclear missiles on it. Each one of the missiles has multiple warheads in it and each warhead has many times the destructive power of the weapon used on Hiroshima. One fully loaded Trident submarine carries 192 warheads, each designed to explode with the power of 475 kilotons of TNT force. If detonated at ground level each would blow out a crater nearly half a mile wide and several hundred feet deep. In addition to the missiles on the submarines, the base has an extensive bunker area where more missiles are stored. That storage area is the Strategic Weapons Facility-Pacific. That is where the activists made their stand for disarmament.

The trial brought peace activists from around the world to challenge the US use of the Trident nuclear weapons. Angie Zelter, internationally known author and activist from the UK, testified about the resistance to Trident weapons in Europe. Stephen Leeper, Chair of the Peace Culture Foundation in Hiroshima, told the jury "the world is facing a critical moment" because of the existence and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Though prohibited from testifying about the details of the death, destruction, and genetic damage to civilians from the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, he testified defendants "have a tremendous amount of support in Hiroshima." Retired US Navy Captain Thomas Rogers, 31 years in the Navy, including several years as Commander of a nuclear submarine, told the court he thought the US possession of nuclear weapons after the Cold War was illegal and immoral. When asked how these weapons would impact civilians, he responded "it is really hard to detonate a 475 kiloton nuclear device without killing civilians." Dr. David Hall of Physicians for Social Responsibility testified about the humanitarian core beliefs of the defendants. And Professor and author Michael Honey told the jury about the importance of nonviolent direct action in bringing about social change.

Prosecutors said the government would neither admit nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons at the base and argued that "whether or not there are nuclear weapons there or not is irrelevant." Prosecutors successfully objected to and excluded most of the defense evidence about the horrific effects of nuclear weapons, the illegality of nuclear weapons under US treaty agreements and humanitarian law, and the right of citizens to try to stop war crimes by their government.

The peace activists, who represented themselves with lawyers as stand by counsel, tried to present evidence about nuclear weapons despite repeated objections. At one point, Sr. Anne Montgomery challenged the prosecutors and the court "Why are we so afraid to discuss the fact that there are nuclear weapons?"
The government testified that it took about five hours to patch the holes in the fences and most of the day to replace the alarm system around the nuclear weapons storage area.

The twelve person jury reported it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on all counts and the judge sent them home for the weekend.

The extensive peace community gathered at the courthouse supported the defendants and rejoiced that the jury was taking the defendants and the charges seriously. Supporters promised to continue to protest against the Trident and its weapons of mass destruction. They echoed the words of one of prospective jurors who was excluded from the trial because, when asked whether he would follow the instructions of the judge in this case, said "I totally respect the rule of law, but some laws are meant to be broken, that is how things change."
Jury deliberations will resume Monday.

For more information on the trial and the peace activists please see the site for Disarm Now Plowshares http://disarmnowplowshares.wordpress.com/ or Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action .

Note: for photos made by the government, taken after the action was over and the participants had been arrested, see here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Report by CIVIC claims many more civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan than US says


The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (Civic) says it investigated nine recent cases involving more than 30 non-militant deaths.

The group says that it is not clear how many people have died in drone attacks in the past two years.
But it is thought to be about 1,000, with a higher number of injuries.
The US says very few are civilians.
(From: BBC News, Dec 9, 2010)

Anti-war.com  also mentions the report, which has an October 2010 release date to it.

The link to the entire report is here: http://www.civicworldwide.org/storage/civicdev/documents/civic pakistan 2010 final.pdf

Executive Summary

Since 2001, the conflict in northwest Pakistan has killed and injured thousands of civilians, displaced millions, and destroyed countless homes and livelihoods. The warring parties include Pakistani forces, US forces, and militant groups. This report documents civilian losses as a result of this armed conflict, analyzes the humanitarian, security, and strategic consequences of those losses, and examines existing-and needed-efforts by warring parties to make amends to survivors.

The number of civilian casualties-meaning deaths and injuries-is significant in Pakistan, though exact figures are unknown due to insecurity and government restrictions on information. In 2009, an estimated 2,300 civilians were killed in terror attacks alone with many more injured. Counting losses from Pakistani military operations and U.S. drone strikes, civilian casualties in Pakistan likely exceed in number those in neighboring Afghanistan.

Despite the severity of losses and consequences of ignoring them, civilian casualties receive too little attention from US, Pakistani and donor-nation policymakers, military officials, and international organizations alike. Overlooking the majority of civilians harmed or displaced by combat operations is undermining the Pakistani government's legitimacy. The US, too, has an obligation to these victims, as a major supporter of Pakistan's anti-terror efforts and as a warring party itself, with small numbers of troops on the ground and drones conducting strikes from overhead.

Over the past year, CIVIC conducted interviews with Pakistani and US policymakers, humanitarians and officials from international organizations, and over 160 Pakistani civilians suffering direct losses from the conflict. After nearly a decade of conflict and billions of aid channeled into Pakistan, more can and should be done to address the civilian cost of the conflict. CIVIC proposes concrete, specific measures to warring parties and their partners toward finally acknowledging and making amends for civilian harm.

Headlines focus on the horrors of terrorism in Pakistan, but CIVIC's research shows that civilians suffer greatly from a much broader range of conflict-related violence. Pakistani military operations, particularly artillery shelling and airpower, cause significant civilian losses. Civilians are caught between militants and Pakistani forces, while also suffering the consequences of extrajudicial killings, sectarian violence, explosive remnants of war, and US drone strikes.

US drone strikes, in particular, have touched off intense public debate. Neither the US nor Pakistani governments officially deny the program exists but tacitly concede its existence. Anonymous US officials insist that civilian casualties caused by drone strikes are minimal. CIVIC's research and that of other independent non-government organizations indicates that the number of civilians killed and injured by drones is higher than the US admits.

Civilian losses in Pakistan are often long-lasting and complex, destabilizing families and entire communities. The loss of a husband can deprive the family of its only source of income. An injury can require expensive medical treatment, care by other family members, and prevent survivors from working in the household or finding a job. A house destroyed can mean homelessness, but also the loss of a family's most important financial asset, forcing them into cycles of debt and dependency.

For Pakistanis already struggling to make ends meet, losses like these are compounded by underdevelopment, displacement, and economic vulnerability. Without savings, insurance, or social safety nets, the shock of a death, injury or property damage can dramatically alter families' lives, pushing many into debilitating poverty.

Civilian victims expressed anger at warring parties for their losses. Despite some people's fear of retribution for speaking out, many placed the blame squarely on the Pakistani and US militaries. Almost all victims insisted that the Pakistani or US governments, respectively, had a responsibility to make amends-meaning, an acknowledgment of the harm suffered and an offer of assistance or compensation.

Of the warring parties involved in the conflict, the Pakistani government is the only one making some form of amends to war victims. For example, the Pakistani government maintains compensation programs for some civilian deaths and injuries as well as housing destruction. While these programs need improvement in practice, amends like these can restore a measure of dignity through recognition of losses and provide much-needed help, while also mitigating anger and enhancing the perceived legitimacy of the Pakistani government and military.

This report demonstrates that amends are both possible and practicable in Pakistan, and expected by Pakistani civilians. This requires new programs and a significant improvement of efforts underway. Most Pakistani war victims have yet to receive any assistance, compensation, or even recognition of the harm they suffered.

Summary of Findings

  • Significant civilian casualties are caused by Pakistani military operations, US drone strikes, militant and terror attacks, and other forms of conflict-related violence such as unexploded ordnance and sectarian clashes;
  • There is no governmental or military mechanism that systematically and publicly investigates or collects data on civilian casualties;
  • Deaths, injuries, and property losses are greatly compounded by widespread poverty and displacement;
  • Civilians interviewed acknowledge the relative accuracy of US drone strikes but criticize them for causing civilian casualties and question the program's long-term effectiveness against militants; most opposed the strikes and demanded an end to the practice;
  • Civilians hold warring parties responsible for their losses and expect amends (compensation, for example) from both the Pakistani and US governments;
  • The Pakistani government is the only warring party attempting to make direct amends to civilian war victims, with a compensation and housing program;
  • Civilians see Pakistani government efforts to compensate or assist war victims as providing real help to those in need and dignifying losses. These programs can also mitigate anger and enhance the perceived legitimacy of the Pakistani government and military;
  • Most victims interviewed were left without amends for their losses due to serious deficiencies in Pakistani compensation mechanisms and no US effort to help those harmed by its combat operations; this, despite US programs for such victims in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  Recommendations
To the Government of Pakistan
  • Ensure all forces-including military, intelligence, security, and lashkars-adhere to the rules of international humanitarian law, including principles of distinction and proportionality, and that all government forces are adequately trained on the same;
  • Refrain from using artillery, mortars and airpower in densely populated areas and ensure such weapons are deployed in a manner that appropriately discriminates between civilians and combatants;
  • Publicly investigate all incidents of civilian harm and, when appropriate, acknowledge responsibility for causing harm;
  • Halt all extrajudicial killings and investigate potential incidents of extrajudicial killings;
  • Halt destruction of homes and other civilian property as retribution or collective punishment;
  • Remove restrictions preventing UN and non-governmental organizations from accessing conflict-affected areas;
  • Halt all intimidation and coercion of journalists, civilian victims or advocates who document or speak out about civilian harm;
  • Improve existing compensation mechanisms for civilians suffering losses by:
  • Proactively investigating all potential incidents of civilian casualties (or allowing independent investigators to do so), identify victims including those who are displaced, acknowledge responsibility where appropriate, and ensure harm is fully addressed;
  • Designating federal and provincial level institutions and administrators to oversee, coordinate, and standardize compensation mechanisms;
  • Developing mechanisms to ensure compensation accountability and transparency with record-keeping, clear and publicized guidelines, and official oversight;
  • Ensuring compensation amounts are appropriate to the loss (i.e. a multi-family house may require a larger payment) and standardizing amount ranges for compensation;
  • Standardizing eligibility and procedures for civilians filing claims and for officials that proactively offer compensation across the country;
  • Ensuring sufficient and timely financing (i.e. an accountable and steady funding stream) for compensation;
  • Developing mechanisms, preferably in partnership with the US, to make amends to victims of drone attacks;
  • Ensuring women and other vulnerable groups have equal access to compensation;
  • Do not ignore or improperly address civilian losses from the conflict in responding to the humanitarian crises caused by the recent floods.
  To Militant Groups
  • Immediately cease all attacks directly targeting civilians;
  • Comply with applicable laws of war, including proportionality and distinction between combatants and non-combatants;
  • Publicly investigate all incidents of civilian harm and, when appropriate, acknowledge responsibility for causing civilian harm;
  • Provide compensation or assistance to civilians collaterally harmed as a result of legitimate combat actions, acknowledging that such assistance in no way justifies or excuses attacks that target or disproportionately harm civilians;
  • Do not inhibit or undermine aid provided to civilian victims, whether provided by the Pakistani government or humanitarian organizations;
  • Ensure civilians have freedom of movement and facilitate civilians' departure from conflict areas;
  • Ensure UN, NGOs, other neutral humanitarian organizations, and journalists have access to conflict-affected areas and ensure forces refrain from any intimidation or violence targeting these groups.
  To the United States Government
  • Ensure proportionality and combatant/non-combatant distinction in targeting in all drone strikes;
  • Make public the official definition of civilian, combatant, and non-combatant applied in the drone program, the legal justification for drone strikes, and measures taken to ensure strikes conform to applicable international law;
  • Investigate and publicly acknowledge incidents of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes;
  • Work in partnership with the Pakistani government to provide compensation and other assistance to all civilians harmed by drone strikes;
  • Support existing Pakistani compensation mechanisms including the provision of financial and technical support;
  • Identify additional programs and initiatives to fund that specifically help conflict victims recover, as the US Congress has done in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • Ensure funds appropriated by Congress under the Pakistan Civilian Assistance Program are used for programs directly aiding victims of the conflict;
  • Ensure that the US response to the flood crisis does not displace needed attention on the losses suffered by civilian victims of the conflict.
To the UN and other Members of the International Community
  • Establish a UN mechanism to monitor, document, and investigate incidents of civilian casualties;
  • Whenever possible, coordinate the provision of assistance with all other actors and link victims with existing government and non-governmental assistance;
  • Encourage all warring parties to provide amends to meaningfully recognize and assist civilian victims of the conflict;
  • Press the Pakistani government for increased access for humanitarian and development organizations to conflict-affected areas;
  • Ensure that in channeling resources to the flood crisis, the losses of civilian conflict victims are not ignored.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Washington State: On the Eve of the Trial…

From our friends at: Disarm Now Plowshares.
We wish them much good luck and we hold them in our prayers...

On the Eve of the Trial…


Posted on December 7, 2010 by Disarm Now Plowshares

Friends,

It is late Monday evening, and I am sitting in the living room of Jean’s House of Prayer writing this post while others huddle over their laptop computers preparing for tomorrow’s trial.

On the eve of the Disarm Now Plowshares trial people came together at St. Leo Church in Tacoma to break bread, join together in fellowship and celebrate Plowshares. Following a bountiful potluck supper, the Seattle Raging Grannies serenaded us with timeless classics like “Take Me Out of the Bomb Game.” James Morgan engaged the crowd in a sing-along to “The Ballad of Disarm Now Plowshares,” along with other music throughout the evening.

Fr. John Fuchs, SJ, opened the formal program with a moment of silence in honor of Philip Berrigan, who died on this day 8 years ago.

Before introducing the evening’s keynote speaker, Angie Zelter, the Rev. Anne Hall of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action shared the colorful history of Plowshares actions at Bangor. The Disarm Now Plowshares are the third group of Plowshares activists to have made their way to the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific, and none of them had it easy.

The first time was in 1979 when James Douglass and others slogged across Sub Base Bangor after notifying the Navy ahead of time; it still took the Navy 12 hours to find them. Six months later on January 5, 1980, Douglass and others trudged through the snow towards SWFPAC again. This time they did not notify the Navy ahead of time, and only after Shelley Douglass got worried after not hearing from Jim after 20 hours and called the Navy did they find them (after they had been on the base a total of 24 hours. The Navy wanted to minimize publicity, and only charged them with trespassing; they spent 6 months in jail.

Scottish Trident activist, and founder of Trident Plowshares (among many other things) Angie Zelter then spoke to us of “The Importance of Civil Resistance.” I will do my best to share highlights of her rich presentation.

Angie applauded the action of Disarm Now Plowshares as “creating the changes needed in your society to enable it to pass beyond war and injustice, control and dominance,” and she reminded us that “we are colleagues in the same struggle for justice and peace.” As for the trial, Angie said that the actions of Disarm Now provide an opportunity for our court system to recognize and stop the grievous crimes being committed by our own government “and to strengthen the rule of law.” She also recognized that the courts may “not act fairly and rise to the challenge,” in which case it will be on their conscience.

In stating the case for strong engagement by civil society Angie said, “I believe that the law is a powerful tool that, if respected and used with integrity, can deliver nuclear disarmament. However, as we know to our cost, powerful nations tend to act above the law and to abuse power, which is why there is a need for a strong civil society to keep track and pressure governments and law courts to uphold international law. This has been difficult as there is a great deal of official and public cynicism about law in general and international law in particular, epitomised by views that the law serves the powerful in society, does not look after the interests of the poor or weak, and is the law of the victors over the vanquished.”

Angie spoke of how international law is becoming more widely recognized in the United Kingdom in cases involving anti-nuclear activists, but cautioned that they ” still find prosecuting lawyers and some judges expressing impatience and strong disapproval of ordinary citizens ‘meddling’ in the law, and a belief that ‘amateurs’ should not try to ‘uphold’ the law or ‘take the law into their own hands’. We are told not to get involved, that it is up to the government, or the police, or the military, or some other institution, to deal with crimes against peace or war crimes. But we all know that we cannot rely upon these institutions to make the changes we need – we have to act ourselves, as responsible global citizens, and be involved in people’s disarmament.”

Because the legal systems in both our countries have been corrupted and therefore work to prevent defendants from presenting full legal arguments, we must use the jury system to our advantage in order “to uncover the illegalities and criminalities of possessing and threatening to use nuclear weapons and to demand a proper reckoning. We have to expose the hypocrisy of our countries expecting others to obey international law while refusing to obey it themselves.” Of course, given the limitations generally placed on the defense it is difficult but not impossible to be able to speak to the jury. Angie reminds us that we must use “creative ways of making sure that the jury are informed.”

Back to the importance of civil society: “Civil society acts in the belief that the strength and wisdom of a society lies with its people and that we get the governments and legal systems that we allow. We believe we are not completely powerless but are responsible individuals. Thus, rather than staying silent when we see gross crimes being committed in our names, we act. Knowing that the deployment of weapons of mass destruction destroys our humanity and breaks the fundamental principles of humanitarian law, we take the spirit of the law seriously and call our institutions to account. We become part of the forces creating the evolution of our society, we help shape the law and ensure its implementation.”

In speaking of the process of correcting the courts’ previous errors of judgement and upholding the rule of law Angie said ,

Actions like the Disarm Now Ploughshares action are part of this whole process of social transformation that takes much longer than we would all wish but which is nevertheless having its effect. You face a much tougher challenge than we do as you are more often refused the chance to present the evidence of the effects of nuclear weapons on people and the environment. This is because it is clear that if this evidence were given to an impartial jury it would be obvious that these weapons break all the rules and there would be a good chance of an acquittal. Over the coming days we will no doubt witness the lengths to which the Tacoma court will go to stop the truth from getting out. It is our responsibility to make sure that nevertheless we take it out to a wider public by writing articles and talking about it, doing whatever we can. And I hope that the coming trial will inspire you all to continue the nonviolent civil resistance.

I believe that our citizens’ campaigns must carry on using international law to de-legitimise nuclear weapons and to legitimise our own nonviolent actions and to do this in highly public and confrontational ways so it cannot be ignored. We have to do this whilst keeping the moral arguments to the fore as well, by emphasising the links between morality and law.

As she neared the end of her presentation, Angie quoted Judge Weeramantry of the International Court of Justice who stated that,

Every citizen has an obligation to use his or her influence to prevent crimes against humanity …….. Indeed anti-nuclear civil resistance is the right of every citizen of this planet for the nuclear threat, attacking as it does every core concept of human rights, calls for urgent and universal action for its prevention. If it is a basic human right to be free of threat or violence, if the right to life is a basic human right, and if the protection of children and future generations is a basic human duty, international law must unhesitatingly recognise that the right to nonviolent resistance activities, for the prevention of such an international crime is basic to human dignity.
Angie finished by reiterating our responsibility as citizens of the world to act:

It is clear …… that there is an increasing need in the modern world …….. for citizens to take a greater interest in international law and in the way their government fulfils its obligation in this regard. This is increasingly a matter for the citizenry of the world and if they do not rise to their obligations in this respect, future generations will pay dearly for this inaction.”

So you see the law is on our side. Humanity is on our side. The vast majority of countries in the world want nuclear disarmament and are on our side. Eventually if we keep our fragile candle of hope and love and nonviolent resistance alight we will get nuclear disarmament. I wish you all strength and hope for the coming days.

As the Disarm Now Plowshares prepare to begin their trial tomorrow morning may each of us light a candle of hope for them, and may we also pledge to call on our government to uphold its obligations under international laws and to speak out as citizens of the world and say “NOT IN OUR NAME!”

Peace,
Leonard

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lawsuit Over Flawed CIA Drone Code Is Deep Sixed by Settlement


An explosive lawsuit alleging that Boston-area tech company Netezza Corp. sold computer hardware loaded with “hacked,” faulty software to the CIA for use in the agency’s Predator Drone program has now disappeared from public view.
The parties to the lawsuit, which include Netezza and software developer Intelligent Integration Systems Inc. (IISI), announced two weeks ago that they had reached a settlement in the case. A day after that announcement, corporate giant IBM closed on a $1.7 billion deal to purchase Netezza.

Further reading.

Friday, November 26, 2010

They’re in there for us; we’re out here for them!

The Nuclear Resister marks 30 years of supporting imprisoned activists and reporting on anti-nuclear and anti-war resistance

in: Peacenews nr 2526

They’re in there for us; we’re out here for them!

Felice & Jack Cohen-Joppa

Thirty years ago this October, the first issue of the Newsletter of the National No-Nukes Prison Support Collective (later renamed the Nuclear Resister) reported on just one anti-nuclear civil disobedience action – that of the Plowshares Eight.

On 9 September 1980, eight US activists made their way into a General Electric factory in Pennsylvania, where they hammered and poured blood on nuclear missile nose-cones. This action inspired a global movement, and scores of similar acts of direct disarmament have been reported in the 157 issues of the Nuclear Resister published since then.

Dubbed by an early reader a “chronicle of hope”, the newsletter began with the aim of providing comprehensive reporting on arrests for anti-nuclear civil resistance in the United States, and encouraging the essential support for the activists jailed for these actions.

In 1990, coverage expanded to include reporting on anti-war arrests in North America, plus overseas anti-nuclear and anti-war resistance.

Each issue lists the names of activists behind bars and their prison addresses. It is a testimony to the persistence and commitment of these movements that there have always been resisters in jail, every day, through the last 30 years. Building on this reporting, the Nuclear Resister helps network the anti-nuclear and anti-war resistance movements. Contact information for action groups and a list of upcoming actions are regular features of the newsletter.

Online, the new Nuclear Resister blog at nukeresister.org provides more information to a growing number of people, including up-to-date prisoner addresses, breaking news, links to action groups, and a sign-up for the free monthly e-bulletin supplements to the print edition.

Over the past three decades, the Nuclear Resister has reported on more than 100,000 anti-nuclear and anti-war arrests during thousands of actions in the US and around the world, and encouraged support for at least 1,000 men and women imprisoned for these acts of conscience – people who have received sentences ranging from two weeks to 22 years.

Writings from many of these prisoners have been included in almost every issue, along with stories of direct actions against nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear testing, uranium mining, war, military recruiting and torture.

The powerful history of a significant movement for social change emerges from the stories of war tax resisters, military refusers and conscientious objectors; bomb plant blockaders and nuclear reactor site occupiers; citizen weapon inspectors at military bases and backcountry activists disrupting a missile launch or nuclear test; people sitting-in at legislative offices and military recruiting centres; and plowshares/ploughshares activists who have dismantled weapons of mass destruction with household hammers.

It’s unlikely that you’ll read much about these actions, or about the people behind bars, in the mainstream press, and certainly not portraying these actions in their context as part of a wider movement.

Soon after the 1991 attack on Iraq, George HW Bush smugly remarked that he couldn’t hear any anti-war voices in the US, and the media didn’t do much to dispel that notion. But the Nuclear Resister proved he simply wasn’t listening, and reported over 6,000 arrests during more than 225 actions in at least 27 states in the months leading up to and through the course of the bombardment.

Similarly, by mid-April 2003, the Nuclear Resister had chronicled over 300 actions in 115 cities in 35 states, resulting in 7,500 arrests in opposition to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The hard work and dedication of many people have kept the Nuclear Resister going all these years. Since 1980, Jack and Felice Cohen-Joppa have co-ordinated the work and edited the newsletter, along the way travelling to countless demonstrations, actions, conferences, courthouses and prison visiting rooms.

Hundreds of others have helped by distributing newsletters, staffing Nuclear Resister tables [stalls] at various events, creating artwork and writing articles, helping at mailing parties, providing information about actions and legal updates, sending photos, helping with the website and blog, and writing letters of support to imprisoned activists. The work has squeaked by on a shoestring budget thanks to the generous support of activists and subscribers around the world.

This past July, the Nuclear Resister, sister organization Nukewatch, and the Plowshares Eight celebrated their 30th anniversaries together at the Resistance for a Nuclear Free Future gathering in Tennessee [see PN 2525].

The gathering aimed to advance the impact of civil resistance at a critical time in the movement for a nuclear-free future. More than 200 people attended the gathering. 37 were arrested on 5 July at the Y-12 nuclear weapons complex, the largest number in 20 years of civil resistance at Y-12. There are wars continuing in our name – and with our tax dollars – that need to be stopped; nuclear weapons that need to be disarmed; and an aggressive drive for more nuclear power that needs to be turned back.

This is no time to put nonviolent direct action on hold!

These acts of conscience must continue – they are continuing – and it’s important for activists engaged in resistance to keep connected and support each other as they risk arrest, go on trial and possibly to jail.

The Nuclear Resister will continue to help that happen.

For an updated list of imprisoned activists and future actions, for subscription and donation information, to sign up for the monthly e-bulletin or to receive a free sample of the more comprehensive print newsletter, please visit www.nukeresister.org - nukeresister@igc.org

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Undercover police among arrested at SOA vigil

From: National Catholic Reporter
Nov. 23, 2010

At least one of the 29 persons taken into custody outside Fort Benning during a rally at the annual School of Americas Watch vigil Nov. 20 in Columbus, Ga. was an undercover police officer.

The revelation came as Lauren Stinson, an undercover narcotics agent with the Muscogee, Ga., county sheriff’s office, testified in court Nov. 21 that she participated in two meetings with SOA Watch protesters and allowed herself to be rounded up with activists during the rally.
SOA Watch organizers, meanwhile, said Nov. 22 they believed that at least four more of those arrested near the alley leading to the gates of the military institution were also undercover agents.

Backing their allegation, they said, is video taken at the scene of the arrests. SOA Watch organizers said that from the video they can see that five of those taken into custody at the rally were never put in jail and never ended up in court.

Several of those tried for Saturday’s action also said they could recognize the missing arrestees on the video as people who attended discussions with organizers before the arrests.
SOA Watch founder Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois expressed anger and frustration at the new revelations.

Said Bourgeois: “They should be ashamed of themselves. They’re seeing us … as the enemy, when just down the street is this military base that has contributed to a lot of violence.”
Center for Constitutional Rights legal director and SOA Watch legal volunteer Bill Quigley said the use of undercover officers seemed like “overkill” and a “waste of taxpayer resources.”
“It was probably a great weekend in Georgia to be a drug dealer,” said Quigley. “A number of the people in Columbus who would normally be enforcing drug laws were instead talking to priests and nuns and college students about sitting down in a street for 10 minutes.”Police confront people near the alley leading to the gates of the Fort Benning military complex Nov. 20.Saturday’s arrests came as activists were concluding a rally at the gates of Fort Benning for the afternoon. Hundreds had gathered at the edge of the alley leading to the military base, facing towards a nearby shopping center while chanting slogans and carrying large puppets made of cardboard.

Police stood directly opposite the activists. As the activity continued, police warned activists that they would be arrested for unlawful gathering if they stepped into the street and out of the designated protest area as a group.

As activists began to leave the rally, SOA Watch organizers say police arrested 29 people in two separate groups.

One group of 17 people were arrested as they attempted to leave the rally in twos and threes. They were charged with blocking the road and failure to disperse. SOA Watch said no one in this group intended to be arrested.A woman is taken into custody by police officers Nov. 20.Included in this group were three journalists with the television network Russia Today: Kaelyn Eckenrade, Jihan Abdel-Hafiz, and Khadja Abdel-Hafiz. The three were taking photos and video of the arrests.

Also included in this group was Curtis Thornton, a resident of Columbus who testified in court Nov. 21 that he worked at a nearby barber shop and had stepped out of his building to take photos of the action when he was arrested.

Another group of 12 people were arrested as they were purposefully blocking the street in an act of civil disobedience. SOA Watch organizers say five people in that group were not put in jail with the other seven and were not charged with any crimes. The remaining seven were charged with blocking the road and failure to disperse.

Twenty-two of the 24 people who were charged with crimes Nov. 20 went before Columbus Recorder’s Court Judge Michael Cielinski Nov. 21. Cielinski found 21 of those in that group guilty and ordered them to pay fines between $1,300 and $5,500.

The other two people who were charged Nov. 20 -- Jesuit Fr. Bill Brennan and Janice Sevre-Duszynska -- faced trial separately. They went before Georgia State Judge Stephen Smith Nov. 22 and were also found guilty.

Brennan was ordered to pay $50 in fines; Sevre-Duszynska $500. Both also received six months probation.

The two faced trial separately because Brennan uses a wheelchair and could not be arrested by police officers at the scene. Sevre-Duszynska, an ordained member of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, was accompanying Brennan at the scene.

Over the weekend four other people were arrested by federal authorities for trespassing onto the Fort Benning military complex in an act of civil disobedience.

Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale and Nancy Smith walked onto the base Nov. 20. David Omandi, a member of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker community, and Christopher Spicer, a member of the White Rose Catholic Worker community in Chicago, climbed over the barbed wire fence located at the main entrance of Fort Benning Nov. 21.

Vitale and Omandi pleaded no contest to charges of trespass in federal court this morning (Nov. 23). U.S. magistrate judge Stephen Hyles sentenced them both to six months in jail. They are currently being held in Muscogee county jail pending transfer.

Spicer and Smith pleaded not guilty. They were both released on bond with a trial set for Jan. 5.
The arrests came during the annual School of Americas Watch vigil. In its twentieth year, the vigil commemorates the deaths of the Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs and thousands of other Latin Americans with a weekend gathering.

Put together by SOA Watch, an organization which was founded in 1990 by Bourgeois, the annual vigil calls attention to the training of soldiers from Latin America at what used to be called the School of the Americas and is now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, located at Fort Benning.

See also: SOAWatch.

------------------

From: Los Angeles Catholic Worker:

11/24/2010
David Omondi In Jail!

LA Catholic Worker David Omondi was arrested for scaling the fence at the School of the Americas Protest and sentenced to six months in jail. David was determined to stand in solidarity with the victims of SOA graduates and with oppressed people everywhere. When his attorney tried to get him a lighter sentence by claiming that he decided to climb the fence at the last minute, he countered with the statement “With all due respect to my attorney, I came from Los Angeles with the specific intention of climbing that fence.”

Also arrested were Fr. Louie Vitale, activist, co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience and long time friend of the LACW, Nancy Smith of New York and Chris Spicer of the White Rose Catholic Worker in Chicago and former LACW volunteer.

Fr. Louie, like David plead no contest and was sentenced to six months. This is his fourth SOA arrest. Chris and Nancy both plead not guilty and will return for trial in January. We ask for all to join our prayers for the well being of the resisters and for the end of injustice everywhere

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New factsheet on drone warfare


Code Pink has a petition running against drone warfare.
Their new factsheet. [pdf!]

Convicted!

On Thursday, November 18, Fr. Louie Vitale and Sr. Megan Rice were convicted of “trespass” in Santa Barbara Federal Court for their August 23 witness against the Minuteman III launch. Fr. Louie received a $1,000 fine and Sr. Megan received a $500 fine. Neither received jail time or probation from U.S. Magistrate Rita Coyne-Federman.
(Thanks to Vandenberg Witness)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

CIA wants drone war expanded


US officials have been pressuring Pakistan to allow the expansion of CIA drone strikes beyond the nation’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and into Pakistan’s largest province of Balochistan.

Pakistani intelligence officials reportedly rejected the US demand for access to Balochistan, but did agree to a compromise allowing a larger number of CIA agents to operate on the ground in the Baloch capital city of Quetta.

The US has been launching drone strikes against FATA for years, but has dramatically increased the numbers since President Obama took office. The vast majority of those killed in the strikes appear to have been innocent civilians, and only a handful of militant leaders were ever killed.

The prospect of escalating those strikes into Balochistan would also be hugely unpopular, as Pakistanis have complained about the attacks in FATA, only nominally Pakistani territory to begin with, and would undoubtedly object much more loudly to attacks in an actual Pakistani province.

(Antiwar Newswire)

Twenty people dead in drone attack in Waziristan


Bombed to death anyone targeted by US drones turns out to have been a terrorist.
Further reading.

Predator drones in Yemen


The U.S. is intensifying the drone war over Yemen; yesterday the Yemeni foreign minister admitted for the first time that the U.S. was helping out in the Yemeni fight with unmanned drones; the foreign minister said that while the U.S. was providing intelligence, "The (drone) attacks are undertaken by the Yemeni air force" (officials in Yemen have habitually claimed those sorties were the work of the Yemeni air force, although Yemen has neither the aircraft nor the air crews able to conduct these precision attacks); a tug-of-war is going on in Washington on whether the drone war should be conducted by the U.S. military or the CIA; unconfirmed news reports claim that in early November the U.S. moved a squadron of Predator drones to a secret base at the Yemeni Red Sea port of Al Hodaydah.
Further reading.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fr Louie Vitale and Sr Megan Rice interviewed on KPFK World Focus

Fr Louie Vitale and Sr Megan Rice of the Nevada Desert Experience were interviewed on Sunday 7th November 2010 on KPFK´s World Focus, by Blase Bonpane.

They speak about the hearing at the court date of 18th of November in the federal court in Santa Barbara, where they will have to appear to defend themselves for their stand for peace, and their protest at Vandenberg AFB. They also speak about Drone warfare at Creech AFB near Las Vegas, Guam, and the Marshall Islands where US missiles are being sent to for testing.

Listen to the interview here:
http://archive.kpfk.org/parchive/mp3/kpfk_101107_100038worldfocus.MP3

See here a slideshow about Sr Megan and Fr Louie from MacGregor Eddy:



Trial is at 1:30 PM Santa Barbara, CA, November 18th!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

When drones come home to roost

Michael Schwalbe


The age when war was limited to a clearly defined battlefield is long past. In modern wars, civilian populations are bombed, targeted for genocide +and terrorism, and made to suffer by wreckage of infrastructure. The dogs of war, once loosed, respect no fences.

We can expect things to get worse. New remote combat technologies -- drones and robots controlled by operators far from any delimited battlefield -- will bring violence home in ways that will destroy the feelings of safety and security Americans once took for granted.

Militarists who tout these technologies claim that they will mean fewer dead soldiers. This is likely to be true, at least for the side that holds a technological edge. When neither side has better killing tools, the death toll will even out and resume ratcheting upward.

Militarists see other advantages to remote combat: less popular opposition to war if there are fewer body bags coming home; an easier job of teaching recruits to kill if “combat” is as familiar and bloodless as a video game; and more discord among the ranks of enemy leaders because drone strikes often rely on tips from insiders who are trying to eliminate rivals.

The forces driving the development and use of remote combat technologies are partly military and mainly economic. These are enormously profitable technologies for which there will be unlimited demand as nations strive to keep up with each other in a new high-tech arms race. This will be an arms maker’s fantasy come true.

As always, ordinary citizens will pay the bill, and not only with tax dollars. We will pay with more fear, fatalism, and isolation. The feel of daily life will change.

The eventual equalization of technological capability will mean the use of drones and robots to strike at targets in the United States. There will be no need to hijack planes or plant car bombs. Drones, some as small as a suitcase, will be launchable from offshore or just outside U.S. borders. These killing machines will be nearly impossible to stop, as is the case with the drones the U.S. now uses in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

But the problem is not just technological equalization and blowback. The problem is that remote combat technologies have changed the rules of engagement. Stealth assassination anywhere at any time, collateral deaths, and explicit targeting of militarily-employed civilians are the new norms.

When U.S. military and political leaders tell us that a Taliban or al Qaeda leader has been taken out by a drone attack, they would have us believe this will seriously weaken the opposing force -- so much so that the deaths of nearby friends and family members are an acceptable, if officially regrettable, cost.

Whether this kind of remote killing truly weakens an opposing force is a matter of dispute. What seems clear, however, is that such attacks strengthen the resolve to pay us back in kind. It’s not hard to understand why.

Drone attacks often strike people in their homes, away from active battle zones. Which is why these attacks have killed thousands of innocent bystanders, mainly women and children. What better fuel for revenge? As others have noted, for every alleged Taliban or al Qaeda leader killed by a drone attack, ten recruits are created. Americans too, we can imagine survivors thinking, must learn what it feels like to see their loved ones killed by assassination machines. They must experience this in times and places where they thought they were safe.

This retaliation, when it comes, will be justified as necessary, given that Americans have chosen to wage war with killing machines operated from their homeland. The person who flies a drone from a base in the U.S. will be seen as a combatant, hence a legitimate target -- and not only while at work but at any time, preferably when most vulnerable. Perhaps while standing next to you at your daughter’s soccer game.

University-based researchers who devote their talents to inventing new remote combat technologies -- like the shapeshifting ChemBot developed at the University of Chicago -- will also become targets. Technicians in a laboratory, students in a classroom, and anyone else nearby will become collateral damage. War will come to campus in a way it never has.

“Ironic” is too weak a word to describe the situation toward which the inventors and deployers of remote combat technologies are taking us. We will be told that we must use sophisticated machines to kill at a distance to keep violence at bay, even as the inevitable diffusion of this technology brings violence closer to home.

We will be told that we are fighting to preserve the rule of law against the forces of lawless terrorism, even as presidents and their minions assume the prerogative to carry out remote assassinations as they deem fit, with no judicial oversight or public accountability.

We will be told to be grateful that remote combat technologies make it possible to limit war, even as we exhaust our treasury to pay for it, even as our society becomes more militarized, and even as we experience more fear of dying in conflicts that seem to have no end.

Most Americans have not yet learned a lesson well known to partisans of anti-imperialist struggles: from the standpoint of political and economic elites striving for global dominance, no one who might someday oppose them is innocent, and the deaths of the innocent are not important, except when such deaths become ideological liabilities.

The inevitable use of drones and robots against us will perhaps force Americans to learn this lesson. When violence arrives at our door, we should ask, Who invited it? The answer is not simplemindedly “us.” The answer is, Those who have purported to lead and protect us, while profiting from the invention and use of ever more powerful killing technologies.

When that day of awakening comes, Americans might begin to see that what we needed is not just a new set of leaders but a new society, a society that is radically democratic and in which human monsters cannot create mechanical ones to keep the rest of us under control.
Counterpunch.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Study Group attorneys file response to DOE effort to quash lawsuit

Source: Los Alamos Study Group Bulletin:
Bulletin #100
October 22, 2010
Study Group attorneys file response to DOE effort to quash lawsuit

DOE Secretary to initiate another new study of LANL nuke facility

Yesterday attorneys for the Los Alamos Study Group filed a Response (pdf) to the Obama Administration's motion to dismiss the Study Group's lawsuit, which requests a halt to further investment pending preparation of an applicable Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed $5+ billion plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF).

That response lays out further bases, beyond those mentioned in the Complaint (pdf), for halting the project.

The case is being heard by the Honorable Judith Herrera of Federal District Court in Albuquerque.
The Study Group is being represented by Thomas Hnasko and his colleagues at Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor & Martin, LLP; Lindsay A. Lovejoy, and Diane Albert.  This litigation would be impossible without their generous assistance, as well as that of Study Group donors and supporters.

In an important development, industry publication Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor has revealed today in an article written by veteran reporter Todd Jacobsen, that Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu "is in the process of initiating his own independent study on the NNSA’s two biggest construction projects."  See the article here (pdf), reprinted by permission.

Vice President Biden, in a letter made public by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, has nevertheless promised the Administration's whole-hearted support for the CMRR-NF and a companion facility in Tennessee for manufacture of uranium warhead components.  Biden told senators (see pp. 124-125) the Administration would be announcing further increases in the Administration's financial commitment to these projects and the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA's) nuclear weapons program "in the fall."  (Nuclear Weapons and Material Monitor broke that story, but to my knowledge it has not been in the mainstream media.)

Investments in CMRR-NF are intensifying.  The Administration sought and received emergency increase in nuclear weapons spending on October 1, which includes an increase in annual spending from $58 million to $169 million on CMRR-NF.

Study Group Director Greg Mello: "We are pleased that Secretary Chu has recognized the need to re-study this facility, but greatly question whether a thoughtful review can be done in the advertised six weeks.  We have already developed a set of reasonable alternatives to this facility and anticipate working productively with the review team and with Congress.  What is needed for an objective review is a halt to further investments in the project.  Likewise we need a de novo environmental review that analyzes 'all' reasonable alternatives to the project, as the law requires.  The two go together -- again, as NEPA recognizes and requires.

"Nuclear laboratory unit costs in this proposed facility have risen by a factor of about 23 in this project since it was first funded by Congress, and its mission is more dodgy than ever.  We believe no part of this facility -- not the vault, not the additional labs, not the additional facility to prepare on-site subcritical nuclear testing to get around the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) -- is remotely necessary or desirable to maintain the existing U.S. nuclear stockpile for the indefinite future, assuming that's the Administration's goal.

"CMRR-NF should not be desirable to weapons administrators because there are much better, less managerially risky, cheaper, and safer facility options for preserving U.S. nuclear weapons.  To we who find nothing beneficial about nuclear weapons, it is a vast misdirection of resources, and a symbol of how dangerously perverted our priorities have become.  It's too bad that the Obama Administration offered it up so readily to the most hawkish members of Congress in return for their possible vote on New START ratification.

"We now need a new 'bipartisan' consensus that wasting boatloads of money to create a facility to make plutonium pits we don't need -- and which, if made, would degrade confidence in the stockpile -- is a bad idea.  The key is for the Administration to 'stop, look, and listen' before taking the plunge on this thing."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Iraq War Logs

At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history. The 391,832 reports ('The Iraq War Logs'), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a 'SIGACT' or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivallent population size.

Source.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Los Alamos pretrial hearing of the LANL-8

NEWS RELEASE
Contact Trinity Nuclear Abolition (TNA): 505 242-0497
22 October 2010

7 NUCLEAR PROTESTERS PLEAD “NOT GUILTY”
1 PLEADS “NO CONTEST”

  LOS ALAMOS, NM  Seven nuclear abolitionists, arrested for trespass
last August as they sat in front of the locked gate of a plutonium
processing facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), will
plead their case to a jury picked from residents of Los Alamos, New
Mexico, where The Bomb was born.

At a pretrial hearing October 21 in Los Alamos Magistrates Court,
Magistrate Pat Casados set a trial date of Tuesday, February 8, 2011
for seven of the eight people arrested last August 6, the 65th
anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Defendant Elias Kohn, a
student at the University of Southern California, pleaded "no contest"
and was sentenced to 60 days probation and fined $500.

  The seven proceeding to trail are Jeff Freitas and Jason Ahmadi
(from California); David Coney and Bryan Martin (from Boise, Idaho);
Sister Megan Rice (from Las Vegas, Nevada); Lisa Fithian (from Austin,
Texas) & Jack Cohen-Joppa (from Tucson, Arizona).

  The LANL-8 were part of a group of over 100 activists who held a
colorful demonstration in the streets of Los Alamos on the 65th
anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Their march
lead onto LANL property for a ceremony in front of the Chemistry
Metallurgy Research (CMR) building on Diamond Drive, where critical
plutonium engineering for nuclear weapons goes on. Eight people
entered the security gate and sat down peacefully. LANL then asked
local police to arrest the eight activists for alleged "trespassing".

Police were told by demonstrators that the true crime at hand was
continued nuclear weapons production, and the people had assembled to
stop it. Police chose to arrest the eight, who were booked at the jail
and released later that evening. 24-year old Think Outside The Bomb
participant Bryan Martin said, “What I learned this Summer in Chimayo,
New Mexico has led me into dedication as I have begun to realize just
how much there is to overcome to create a positive change in the
world.”

   Because the Department of Energy (DoE) is spending billions of
dollars on a CMR Replacement (a plutonium pit facility to continue the
work of the Manhattan Project) many peace activists came from around
the U.S. to Los Alamos to pray and act for peace on August 6th.  The
resisters know that plans to continue developing new nuclear weapons
are a crime against existing international and humanitarian law. They
contend that the Nuremberg Principles oblige all civilians to act to
prevent known criminal activity. In so doing, they went to the older
CMR building to prevent pro-nuclear work there.

“Our action is necessitated by a delay of 65 years in ending the continual
manufacture of nuclear weapons,” said 80-year old defendant Sr. Megan
Rice. “The original Manhattan Project scientists recognized (but
failed to convince the world) that continuing the nuclear weapons
project was intrinsically evil.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What makes the CIA's drone programme tick

The Suffolk County courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, is an unlikely place to learn about the CIA's drone program. Yet a contract dispute currently being litigated in Superior Court there offers a rare glimpse into the computer systems and software that are at the heart of the program.

The suit gives worrying indications that the CIA may have knowingly relied on untested and substandard software to operate its drones. It also raises important questions regarding potential civil and criminal liability for civilian casualties that could result from flawed/erroneous drone strikes.

The CIA is not a party to the Massachusetts case. But its unmanned aerial vehicle program, whose operations are very much at issue in the case, was responsible for at least 20 missile strikes that are believed to have killed more than 150 people last month in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan.

Further reading.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Drone attacks based on feeble evidence

New information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a program based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al-Qaeda’s terrorist plots against the United States.

A new report on civilian casualties in the war in Pakistan has revealed direct evidence that a house was targeted for a drone attack merely because it had been visited by a group of Taliban soldiers.

The report came shortly after publication of the results of a survey of opinion within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan showing overwhelming popular opposition to the drone strikes and majority support for suicide attacks on U.S. forces under some circumstances.

Meanwhile, data on targeting of the drone strikes in Pakistan indicate that they have now become primarily an adjunct of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, targeting almost entirely militant groups involved in the Afghan insurgency rather than al-Qaeda officials involved in plotting global terrorism.

The new report published by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) last week offers the first glimpse of the drone strikes based on actual interviews with civilian victims of the strikes.

In an interview with a researcher for CIVIC, a civilian victim of a drone strike in North Waziristan carried out during the Obama administration recounted how his home had been visited by Taliban troops asking for lunch. He said he had agreed out of fear of refusing them.

The very next day, he recalled, the house was destroyed by a missile from a drone, killing his only son.

The CIVIC researcher, Christopher Rogers, investigated nine of the 139 drone strikes carried out since the beginning of 2009 and found that a total of 30 civilians had been killed in those strikes, including 14 women and children.

If that average rate of 3.33 civilian casualties for each drone bombing is typical of all the strikes since the rules for the strikes were loosened in early 2008, it would suggest that roughly 460 civilians have been killed in the drone campaign during that period.

The total number of deaths from the drone war in Pakistan since early 2008 is unknown, but has been estimated by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation at between 1,109 and 1,734.

Only 66 leading officials in al-Qaeda or other anti-U.S. groups have been killed in the bombings. Reports on the bombings have listed the vast majority of the victims as “militants,” without further explanation.

The victim’s account of a drone attack based on the flimsiest rationale is consistent with the revelation in New York Times reporter David Sanger’s book The Inheritance that the CIA was given much greater freedom in early 2008 to hit targets that might well involve killing innocent civilians.

The original rationale of the drone campaign was to “decapitate” al-Qaeda by targeting a list of high-ranking al-Qaeda officials. The rules of engagement required firm evidence that there were no civilians at the location who would be killed by the strike.

But in January 2008 the CIA persuaded President George W. Bush to approve a set of “permissions” proposed by the CIA that same month which allowed the agency to target locations rather than identified al-Qaeda leaders if those locations were linked to a “signature” – a pattern of behavior on the part of al-Qaeda officials that had been observed over time.

That meant the CIA could now bomb a motorcade or a house if it was believed to be linked to al-Qaeda, without identifying any particular individual target.

A high-ranking Bush administration national security official told Sanger that Bush later authorized even further widening of the power of the CIA’s operations directorate to make life-or-death decisions based on inferences rather than hard evidence. The official acknowledged that giving the CIA so much latitude was “risky,” because “you can make more mistakes – you can hit the wrong house, or misidentify the motorcade.”

The extraordinary power ceded to the CIA operations directorate under the program provoked serious concerns in the intelligence community, according to one former intelligence official. It allowed that directorate to collect the intelligence on potential targets in the FATA, interpret its own intelligence and then make lethal decisions based on that interpretation – all without any outside check on the judgments it was making, even from CIA’s own directorate of intelligence.

Officials from other intelligence agencies have sought repeatedly to learn more about how the operations directorate was making targeting decisions but were rebuffed, according to the source.

Some national security officials, including mid-level officials involved in the drone program itself, have warned in the past that the drone strikes have increased anti-Americanism and boosted recruitment for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. New support for that conclusion has now come from the results of a survey of opinion on the strikes in FATA published by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow.

The survey shows that 76 percent of the 1,000 FATA residents surveyed oppose drone strikes and that nearly half of those surveyed believe they kill mostly civilians.

Sixty percent of those surveyed believed that suicide bombings against the U.S. military are “often or sometimes justified.”

Meanwhile, data on the targeting of drone strikes make it clear that the program, which the Obama administration and the CIA have justified as effective in disrupting al-Qaeda terrorism, is now focused on areas where Afghan and Pakistani militants are engaged in the war in Afghanistan.

Most al-Qaeda leaders and Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who has been closely allied with al-Qaeda against the Pakistani government, have operated in South Waziristan.

North Waziristan is where the Haqqani network provides safe havens to Pashtun insurgents fighting U.S.-NATO troops in Afghanistan. It is also where Hafiz Gul Bahadur, leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction who has called for supporting the Afghan insurgency rather than jihad against the Pakistani government, operates.

In 2009, just over half the drone strikes were still carried out in South Waziristan. But in 2010, 90 percent of the 86 drone strikes carried out thus far have been in North Waziristan, according to data collected by Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer and published on the Web site Long War Journal, which supports the drone campaign.

The dramatic shift in targeting came after al-Qaeda officials were reported to have fled from South Waziristan to Karachi and other major cities.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration was privately acknowledging that the war would be a failure unless the Pakistani military changed its policy of giving the Haqqani network a safe haven in North Waziristan.

When asked whether the drone campaign was now primarily about the war in Afghanistan rather than al-Qaeda terrorism, Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative told IPS, “I think that’s a reasonable conclusion.”

Bergen has defended the drone campaign in the past as “the only game in town” in combating terrorism by al-Qaeda.

(Gareth Porter, IPS)

Link to Report: http://www.civicworldwide.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=445&Itemid=202  (press info) and here. (PDF)

Gonna take Us All, Jon Fromer (RIP

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