“President Obama would like us to believe that there are no civilian victims to drone attacks…In that, I think he is lying to his own nation.” -Shazad Akbar
The same day of the previous post, April 30, 2012, the Obama administration admitted the use of predator drones for the first time, after using them in extrajudicial killings for years. John Brennan, President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, praised the assassin planes as “astonishingly accurate”.
The ACLU said that legal memos justifying such actions have still not been issued, and is highly critical.
“Brennan had already made waves by admitting publicly that civilian deaths are an inevitable part of counterterrorism operations. That issue strikes at the heart of much of the criticism that has built up against the U.S. use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles over the past half-decade.
For a long time, the narrative was that drones were only killing militants,” Shazad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer, told an international conference on drone warfare that took place in Washington over the weekend.
In Waziristan, in western Pakistan, he reported, “more than 3,000 people have been killed in 300 drone strikes.” Given the lack of independent monitoring, it is unclear what percentage of those people were civilians.
Since 2010, Akbar and the organisation he founded, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, have been representing the families of non-militants allegedly killed by U.S. drone strikes.
For that work, Akbar said, he had been unable to get a U.S. visa for the past 14 months. Ahead of this weekend’s conference, the U.S. State Department is said to have relented only at the last minute.
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said the program is both unconstitutional and overly broad.
“We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous. This statement makes clear that the administration is treating legal restrictions on the use of force as questions of preference. Moreover, it is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield…The administration insists that the program is closely supervised, but to propose that a secret deliberation that takes place entirely within the executive branch constitutes ‘due process’ is to strip the Fifth Amendment of its essential meaning.” Shamsi said.
The Progressive put it best:
The United States hasn’t declared war on Pakistan.
The U.S. has no right to rain bombs down from the sky on this country that it’s not at war with.
This is against the U.N. charter, against international law, against the Constitution, and it’s doing us no favor in Pakistan, either, as it’s been enraging the entire country.
This is Obama’s war. He’s increased drone attacks by 600 percent from Bush’s pace. In Bush’s last three years in office, the U.S. launched 39 drone attacks in Pakistan. In Obama’s first three years, that number jumped to 241.
And don’t for a minute think that these attacks killed only Al Qaeda forces or the Taliban. Hundreds of civilians, hundreds of children, also have been slayed by these remote-control bombing raids.
Obama needs to get over his love of drone warfare.