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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

Gonna take Us All, Jon Fromer (RIP

To keep the spirit!

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