Dutch general praises jihad in Syria, World War I


This video from Britain says about itself:

Afghanistan Drone War: protest held outside British airforce base used in Afghan drone war

29 April 2013

In scenes reminiscent of the anti-nuclear weapons marches in the UK decades ago, around 400 peace and justice campaigners descended on a Lincolnshire RAF base in east England after it was confirmed by the Ministry of Defence that the military compound is being used by the airforce as a launchpad for drone missions over Afghanistan.

General Peter van Uhm in 2008-2012 was commander-in-chief of the Dutch armed forces. Which then, as now, were involved in war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Now, retired General Van Uhm has expressed sympathy for confused Dutch teenagers going to the bloody war in Syria. Boys who often end up there in fanatically religious sectarian paramilitary organisations, with big chances of getting disabled or killed. Or girls, who may end up as ‘religious military prostitutes‘, and have big chances of getting disabled or killed too.

Why are these Dutch teenagers (and teenagers from other countries) so confused that they end up in Syria?

In the Netherlands (and other NATO countries) mainstream media and politicians often depict the regime in the Syrian capital as the only cause of bloodshed in the country, by default depicting all armed oppositionists as freedom fighters. Last summer, Syria (like happened to Yugoslavia, Iraq, etc. before) in war propaganda became ‘the new nazi Germany'; worth of risking the start of World War III for, according to neoconservative ideologists. Fortunately, a nuclear World War III then did not start about Syria. Mass popular opposition led to unexpected defeat for David Cameron’s war-minded government in the British House of Commons. Let us hope that plans to use the crisis in Ukraine to start a nuclear world war will go the same way.

Meanwhile, the CIA and other governmental organisations in NATO countries, and in Arabian peninsula absolute monarchies allied with NATO, keep arming sectarian paramilitary groups in Syria. So, if a foreign teenage boy goes to fight in Syria, then he may claim with some justification that he does things similar to his government’s.

There is still another cause sending confused teenagers to Syria. In the Netherlands (and more or less similarly so in other western countries), most of these young people are from immigrant worker families from Islamic countries. Every now and then, xenophobic bigotry, sometimes against all immigrants, sometimes especially against Muslim immigrants, sometimes especially against Muslim immigrants from Morocco, gets rampant among Dutch media and politicians. If you are a young person in the Netherlands and you’re not white, then it’s harder to get a good job, or any job. If you would like to go to a discotheque, then a doorman may stop you because of the colour of your skin. The xenophobic Islamophobic PVV party of Geert Wilders, allies of the French neo-fascist National Front and other extreme Right parties in Europe, recently was more or less officially part of the Dutch government (they had an agreement, giving them influence on government policies, to prop up a minority right-wing coalition administration).

While, as we saw, media and politicians in the Netherlands (and in other NATO countries … and in Qatar and other Arab Peninsula dictatorial allies of the self-styled “Free World”) on the one hand often depict sectarian war against the Syrian regime as “good war”; on the other hand they often depict confused teenagers joining that “good” war as criminal dangerous terrorists. Police and secret services spy on them and arrest them. Recently, a boy from Amsterdam was jailed for “preparing” to join the war in Syria.

That is one face of the Dutch official establishment.

Now, back to another face of the Dutch establishment; General van Uhm. Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant of today:

Ex-Commander Van Uhm: respect for people going to war in Syria

By: Janny Groen – 05.05.14, 06:02

General (retired) Peter van Uhm respects Dutch people joining the war in Syria because they stand up for their ideals. According to him, these young people ‘in one way or another think that they need to make the world a better place.” He does not share their ideology.

Van Uhm said that in the radio documentary “Lost sons – a century at war”, which aired last night on Radio 1. In this program the former commander of the armed forces traveled to [World War I] military cemeteries in Flanders Fields in Belgium to find an answer to the question: should we be proud or grieve for young men who go to war?

In principle, we should be proud, Van Uhm says, at least if they are going to war because of pure idealism. In Syria, for example, against the oppressor Assad to end the suffering of women and children. …

Van Uhm’s condoning of people going to war in Syria is remarkable. His son, First Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm, in April 2008 at the age of 23 was killed in Afghanistan in an attack with an ‘Islamic’ roadside bomb. …

In the documentary, Van Uhm was confronted with the work of the German sculptress Käthe Kollwitz, whose son was killed in the First World War. Both the military father and artistic mother tried to make sense of the loss of their sons, but they drew different conclusions. Kollwitz wants ‘no more war’. Van Uhm continues to respect ‘young people who stick their necks out for a better world, while – if they are unlucky – they die.’

Kollwitz, Never Again War

If General Van Uhm disagrees with Käthe Kollwitz about World War I, then one may ask: does he think that war for German Emperor Wilhelm II, in which Ms Kollwitz’s son Peter died, was a worthy cause? Should the German empire have won World War I? On, on the contrary, were the German armed forces the bad guys, and their Allied opponents the good guys? Propagandists for present day militarism can’t have that both ways, though sometimes, they seem to try.

How many Dutch youngsters will interpret General Van Uhm’s words as an encouragement to depart to the bloody war in Syria? How many of them will die? How many will become disabled, physically, psychically, or both, for life? How many will get harsh governmental punishments for being ‘terrorists’? How many will really become terrorists after returning from hell in Syria?

LARGE numbers of people have been forced to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul after Islamist militants from the ISIS pro-Al Qaeda group effectively took control of parts of the city: here.

The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a group from which even Al Qaeda has broken because of its excessive violence and sectarian fanaticism, constitutes a searing indictment of the crimes carried out by US imperialism in Iraq and throughout the Middle East: here.

Dutch government helps US drone assassinations


This video from the USA is called Confirmed: American Citizens Killed By U.S. Drones.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“The Netherlands provides metadata for drones

Update: Thursday 24 Apr 2014 13:43

The U.S. uses Dutch metadata for liquidations by drones in Somalia. Thus says a former drone pilot in daily NRC Handelsblad.

Metadata provide information about who is calling whom and when. Such information is essential for the Americans says former pilot Brandon Bryant. They are even more important than what exactly was discussed, he said.

Bryant calls it naïve and incorrect to think that such information would not be used. Various political parties in the House asked for guarantees against that last night during a debate with Minister of Defense Hennis.

Minister Hennis claimed during that parliamentary debate that the data were not used. A false claim, according to Bryant.

No ‘war crimes’ to see here, please move along. On ignoring the human rights and legal emergency that is the Obama drone killing program: here.

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday released a redacted version of the hitherto secret Obama administration memo arguing for the legality of presidential assassinations, without charges or trial, of US citizens. The 47-page memo, dating from July 2010, was drafted and signed by then head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, David Barron, and addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder: here.

United States drones kill Australian, New Zealander in Yemen


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

By Tom Peters:

Australian, New Zealand citizens killed by US drone strike in Yemen

17 April 2014

The Australian reported yesterday that five people, including Australian citizen Christopher Harvard and dual Australian-New Zealand citizen Muslim bin John, were the victims of an extra-judicial killing by a US Predator drone in Yemen on November 19 last year. This is the first reported instance of Australians and New Zealanders being murdered by a drone.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 504 people have been killed since 2002 by American drone strikes in Yemen. This includes at least three US citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Obama administration has greatly expanded the “targeted killing” program and asserted the right to kill anyone, in any part of the world, including US citizens.

Following yesterday’s revelations, Washington’s close allies in Canberra and Wellington both indicated their full support for the assassination of their own citizens. This sets a dangerous new precedent in the assault on democratic rights by Australian and New Zealand governments, both outside and within their own countries.

The Australian’s report stated that the primary targets were three “militants,” including Abu Habib, allegedly a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and former associate of Osama bin Laden.

A “senior counter-terrorism source” told the paper that US authorities notified Australian officials after the drone strike, saying the Australian and NZ citizens were “collateral damage.” The same source described the men as “foot soldiers” for AQAP and said there was “a suggestion they were involved in kidnapping Westerners for ransom.” No evidence has been produced to substantiate these claims.

Harvard’s stepfather Neil Dowrick told the paper that his son went to Yemen in 2011 “to teach English.” The family was only informed of his assassination in December. His grandmother, Jeanette Harvard, said she had “heard three different stories” from government agencies about how her grandson was killed. She said the government told the family they would have to pay $40,000 to repatriate her grandson’s remains.

A spokesperson for Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the paper that she was “briefed on the situation last year” but so far no government minister has commented in public….

Bishop’s Department of Foreign Affairs today defended the drone strike. A spokesperson told Fairfax Media that being an Australian citizen was “not a protection” for people “engaging in potentially criminal activity overseas.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key described the assassination as “legitimate … given that three of the people killed were well known al-Qaeda operatives.” In other words, both governments accept and are complicit in Washington’s lawless operations—killing anyone it likes, without any semblance of due legal process, on mere suspicion of criminality.

In a chilling editorial today, the Australian fully endorsed the drone strike program, brushing aside the deaths of bin John and Harvard as “regrettable.” It admitted that “many” of the 3,300 people killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen were “non-combatant civilians” but justified the murders on the basis that they prevented “the terrorists from committing even more atrocities.”

The Australian and New Zealand governments have not explained why the drone strike was kept secret from the public until now. Both claim that they had no prior knowledge of, or involvement in the strike, but this is highly unlikely. Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies were undoubtedly informed, if not directly involved.

Last July, Fairfax Media revealed that Washington was “critically dependent” on the joint US-Australian spy base Pine Gap to pinpoint targets for drone assassinations in the Middle East. According to the reports, based on leaked information, there were “personnel sitting in airconditioned offices in central Australia directly linked, on a minute-by-minute basis, to US and allied military operations in Afghanistan and, indeed, anywhere else across the eastern hemisphere.”

Key yesterday told the media he was aware of bin John’s presence in Yemen last year and had personally signed a warrant for NZ’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), to monitor him. Key claimed—without providing any evidence—that bin John had attended “some sort of terrorist training camp.”

The revelation that the GCSB was monitoring bin John before he was killed raises the question of whether they provided intelligence to their US counterparts, thus making the Key government an accomplice in the murder of its own citizen. Australia and New Zealand are part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain and Canada.

Until last August it was illegal for the GCSB to spy on NZ citizens and residents, but the law was changed—in the face of overwhelming public opposition—after a government-ordered review found that the agency had illegally spied on more than 85 people. The government can now lawfully spy on anyone it likes. It is not clear whether bin John was monitored before or after the law change.

Key used the revelations of the drone assassination to justify broadening the intelligence agency’s powers, telling reporters that it “shows … the things that I have been saying for quite some time—that we need our intelligence agencies to track our people, that there are New Zealanders who go and put themselves in harm’s way—have all been proven to be correct.”

New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russel Norman criticised Key for “saying it’s OK for foreign governments to execute New Zealanders offshore if they have beliefs about those New Zealand citizens holding views the US government doesn’t like.”

US drone strike kills 3 civilians in Yemen: here.

READ THE LEGAL MEMO USED TO KILL AN AMERICAN CITIZEN “‘This white paper sets forth the legal basis upon which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could use lethal force in Yemen against a United States citizen who senior officials reasonably determined was a senior leader of al-Qaida or an associated force of al-Qaida.’ So begins a 22-page, heavily redacted, previously top-secret document titled ‘Legality of a Lethal Operation by the Central Intelligence Agency Against a US Citizen,’ which provides the first detailed look at the legal rationale behind lethal operations conducted by the agency.” [Vice News]

Here’s What Drone Attacks in America Would Look Like: here.

Over 400 American drones have crashed since 2001, according to a Washington Post expose.

CIA in Yemen: here.

Former Australian Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has been given prominent coverage in the Fairfax-owned press for his view that Australia should revise its interpretation of the ANZUS alliance with America, shut down US bases, including the crucial communications base at Pine Gap in central Australia, and end the stationing of US marines in Darwin: here.

United States drone war from Germany


This 2013 video from the USA is called Jeremy Scahill – Dirty Wars: Inside America’s Covert Wars.

By Elisabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

US conducting drone war from Germany

8 April 2014

The American Ramstein military base in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate plays a central role in Washington’s global drone war. This has been revealed by research from the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, and the radio networks Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR) and Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), based on details from American military documents and former drone pilot Brandon Bryant.

Already early last summer, it was revealed that drone attacks in Africa were being directed from Germany. The central role is played by the Air and Space Operation Centre at the Ramstein base in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is the largest overseas US air base. Pictures from drones circling over African countries such as Somalia are evaluated there. The men and women in the flight centre receive their orders from Stuttgart, where Africom, the headquarters of the US’s African command, has been based since 2007.

Representatives of the German and American governments have always denied that drone attacks are launched from German territory.

When US president Obama visited Germany last June, he claimed in reference to such reports that no drone attacks were conducted or ordered from German territory. “We don’t use Germany as a starting point for unmanned drones in the war on terror. I know that there have been some reports here in Germany according to which that could be the case. It is not the case,” said Obama.

German government representatives answered related questions in parliament, claiming they were not aware that such attacks were flown or directed from Germany.

Both statements were false. The latest revelations also prove that interventions in Pakistan and Yemen were handled from Ramstein. The US military base plays a crucial role in the drone war, which has executed thousands of “suspected terrorists” who had no judicial process or opportunity to defend themselves, as well as numerous civilians that even the US government admits are entirely innocent.

According to estimates from the Bureau of Investigative Journalists, approximately 1,000 civilians have been killed in Pakistan and Yemen by drone attacks since 2004. Foreign Policy magazine estimates that 2,000 “suspects” have been killed by drones since November 2001. The number of civilian deaths remains disputed and is likely many times more than the published figures.

The US Ramstein base serves as a centre for data collection in the drone war. The remote-controlled machines send their data via a satellite to the base, from where it is forwarded through fiber-optic cables to the United States.

In a bunker deep underground on the Ramstein base is the so-called distributed ground system (DGS). There are only five of these US Air Force installations globally that are permanently in operation. Three are located in the United States, one in South Korea, and another, DSG 4, has been at Ramstein since 2003. Only selected soldiers have access to this high security area. No outsider would have any idea of what is going on under their noses.

The DGS is the “central nervous system” of US drone interventions. All of the strands involved in a drone attack are brought together here. Live pictures supplied by drones from Yemen, Somalia, the Afghan-Pakistani border area or other countries are analysed and compared against intelligence information. Decisions are taken, meaning the orders for illegal killings, and then carried out in each target area.

Drone pilots, who are usually based in the US, receive analysis and instructions from DSG-4 in Ramstein through an encrypted chat system called mIRC.

“Without Germany, the US military’s entire drone war would not be possible,” former drone pilot Brandon Bryant told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. He explained on the ARD television programme Panorama, “The air base at Ramstein plays a very essential role in the global drone war. Without this base in Germany, none of it would work. It is the epicentre for the flow of information for the US’s overseas operations.”

Bryant, 28, was stationed at an airbase in New Mexico until April 2011, from where he controlled drones. According to his own figures, he participated in the deaths of 1,626 people, including alleged terrorists, terrorist suspects, and probably civilians.

In the more than 6,000 hours that he flew, there was not a single operation “in which I did not call Ramstein to connect with my drone. At the airbase, virtually all information comes together, like in a funnel,” Bryant said April 3 on the Panorama programme.

He left the air force because he had questioned the integrity of his superiors. “They broke international law and violated human rights. We were basically a killing machine,” said Bryant in explaining his departure from the US military.

The German government responded with evasions to the new evidence that the Ramstein base plays a central role in the US global drone war.

“The American government gave assurances to the federal government that such armed and remote-controlled aircraft were neither flown nor guided from American bases in Germany,” claimed government spokesman Stefan Seibert, referring to the government’s previous level of awareness. But now there was “new information reported,” which the German government wished to make the subject of discussions with the US government. The German government took these reports “seriously.”

In reality, the German government not only knew a lot more about the US drone programme than it is admitting in public, but is directly implicated in it. However, to admit this would have wide-ranging consequences, since the drone programme is in blatant violation of German and international law.

A parliamentary report from January 20, 2014, cited by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, comes to the conclusion that it was “indisputable that Germany” should not tolerate “military operations in violation of international law” that were being implemented by foreign states from German territory. If the US military executes a terror suspect by drone-fired missile outside of a combat zone and in breach of international law, this could “represent complicity in a crime against international law,” if the German government knew about it but didn’t protest.

German intelligence services pass information to the NSA and US military that assists in the identification of drone targets, receiving information in exchange. Three German citizens have also been killed as a result of such data in Pakistan.

Twenty-year-old Bünyamin E from Wuppertal lost his life on October 4, 2010, in a drone attack in Waziristan. The state prosecutor abandoned a full investigation in June 2013.

Patrick N from Offenbach, a German who had converted to Islam, travelled with his wife and two children to Pakistan in 2011 and allegedly joined the “Islamic movement of Uzbekistan.” The 27-year-old died on February 16, 2012, when rockets struck the pickup in which he was travelling near the border with Afghanistan. In addition to him, a further nine people are estimated to have lost their lives.

Samir H from Aachen was killed in a drone attack on a land rover on March 9, 2012. The 29-year-old had travelled to the Afghan-Pakistan border region with his wife and children in 2009 and allegedly also joined the “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.” The German government gave no statements on whether German security forces had passed information on Samir H to American intelligence. Investigations into his death were halted by the state prosecutor in August 2013.

These are the three cases made public. It is not known how many more cases there are where information obtained and passed on by German security forces have led to the deaths of those targeted. However, it is known that a broad range of information flows from Germany to the United States daily, including names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses from suspects who have travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria or Yemen.

The close, and in many areas illegal, collaboration of German and American security forces goes back to the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the Social Democratic-Green Party government in Germany at the time.

So-called rendition flights, which took prisoners to secret “black sites” in various locations around the world, were allowed to stop over regularly in Germany without any obstruction. The German government refused to call for the release of Morat Kurnaz, who grew up in Bremen but sat in Guantanamo Bay for four years, having committed no crime. And in 2003, when the German-Lebanese Khalid El-Masri was kidnapped in Macedonia by the CIA, the German government did not lift a finger to support him.

Last week, the German parliament established an investigatory committee to focus on the surveillance practices of the NSA, while shedding light on Ramstein’s role in the global drone war. But like the investigation of the committee into the murders by the neo-Nazi NSU, all indications are that this will be a cover-up rather than an exposure.

This is shown by the treatment of the most important witness on the NSA programmes, Edward Snowden, who exposed the NSA’s surveillance systems. Although the investigatory committee has invited him as a witness, the German government at the same time refused to give him any assurance of asylum or a secure period of residency in Germany. As a result, Snowden, who understandably fears for his life, will not be able to appear in person before the committee.

Enhanced by Zemanta

NSA, Dutch military spy on millions of Somalis for drone attacks


This video says about itself:

Drone Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen & Somalia include targeting Rescuers and Funerals

US Drone Strike statistics based on research by a team of journalists of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

(As of October 10, 2012)

CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004 — 2012:

Total US strikes: 349
Obama strikes: 297
Total reported killed: 2,593-3,365
Civilians reported killed: 474-884
Children reported killed: 176
Total reported injured: 1,249-1,389

For latest Pakistan strike data click here.

US Covert Action in Yemen 2002 — 2012:

Total confirmed US operations (all): 52-62
Total confirmed US drone strikes: 40-50
Possible additional US operations: 119-138
Possible additional US drone strikes: 63-76
Total reported killed (all): 357-1,038
Total civilians killed (all): 60-163
Children killed (all): 24-34

For latest data from Yemen click here.

US Covert Action in Somalia 2007 — 2012:

Total US strikes: 10-23
Total US drone strikes: 3-9
Total reported killed: 58-170
Civilians reported killed: 11-57
Children reported killed: 1-3

For complete data on Somalia click here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Saturday 8 March 2014, 03:46 (Update: 08-03-14, 09:17 AM)

Dutch data may be used to carry out drone attacks on targets in Somalia. This turns out, according to NRC Handelsblad daily, from documents of the U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service(MIVD) intercepted the telephone messages of millions of Somalis and shared that information with the US American security service NSA.

From Snowden‘s documents it would appear that the Americans have no access to the local telephone network in Somalia. According to the NSA, the MIVD does have access to those data, the newspaper writes.

Civilians

The information from the MIVD according to NRC Handelsblad is used in the drone attacks on Somalia. The U.S. military is currently engaged in attacks on members of the terrorist group al- Shabaab. The drone attacks are controversial, as in those attacks often innocent civilians are killed as well.

The Dutch Department of Defense says Dutch information may be used in the attacks, but if at all, that would probably be to a very limited degree.

US drone strikes in Somalia part of drive to control Horn of Africa: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

United States drones kill Yemen civilians


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

In Yemen, questions and anger over U.S. drone targets

By Abigail Hauslohner, Updated: Saturday, February 8, 3:03 PM

SANAA, Yemen — A drone-fired U.S. missile struck a car southeast of here on a winter night last year, killing two alleged al-Qaeda operatives who lived openly in their community. But it also killed two cousins who were giving the men a ride, and who the Yemeni government later said were innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That incident, and other strikes that have followed, helped fuel anger here over civilian casualties from the U.S. drone campaign and what critics say is an even less-scrutinized problem: the targeting of suspects who are within the reach of the law.

The U.S. drone campaign in Yemen is aimed at rooting out al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. officials have called the most active and deadly of the organization’s wings. Drones have carried out at least 80 attacks since the start of 2011, according to the Long War Journal, which tracks U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

As the strikes continue, public outrage is rising in Yemen, where many people, including government officials, argue that they increase sympathy for al-Qaeda. In December, after a drone attack killed more than a dozen people in a rural wedding convoy, Yemen’s parliament passed a non-binding motion to ban the strikes.

Drones are “a tool for killing outside of the law,” said Ali Ashal, a member of parliament who represents a district where U.S. cruise missiles killed 41 people in 2009 but missed their alleged target, a high-ranking al-Qaeda officer who Ashal said was “moving freely throughout the area and would pass by checkpoints.”

But the feeble Yemeni government, riven by power struggles and corruption, relies on U.S. funding for support, and it allows the attacks. Yemeni politicians and experts say the government — which has struggled with domestic turmoil, weakened state institutions and deepening poverty since the 2011 uprising that ended former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule — appears less inclined than ever to set limits on U.S. drones.

Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, told Reuters in September that drone strikes were a “necessary evil” in the country’s fight against terrorism and a “very limited affair.” At least four strikes have been carried out this year, according to local media.

The drone program in Yemen, where most strikes take place in remote areas, is cloaked in secrecy. Members of the president’s office declined to be interviewed about it, as did Yemen’s National Security Agency and its defense and interior ministries. The Pentagon also declined to comment.

The Obama administration has defended armed drones as precise tools that limit civilian casualties and risk to U.S. military personnel, and it has said it is investigating the attack on the wedding convoy. Asked about that strike in December, a State Department spokeswoman told reporters that the United States takes “every effort to minimize civilian casualties in counterterrorism operations.”

Political tool

Amid an absence of transparency, there is wide speculation in Yemen that drones — and the intelligence from Yemen that at least partly informs targets selected by the CIA or Pentagon — are used as tools of politics and convenience.

Many politicians, activists and analysts suspect that Yemeni security agencies prefer to identify suspects as eligible drone targets rather than arrest them — either to avoid a messy legal process or confrontation with a well-armed population where tribal loyalties run deep.

What’s more, a shadowy battle for power and influence has gripped Yemen since Saleh ceded control to his deputy, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in 2011. Saleh remains a powerful political force whose loyalists are said to crowd security agencies, and his rivals accuse him of manipulating intelligence on terrorist threats to eliminate enemies.

The murky political atmosphere has opened “the possibility that at different times, the United States is sort of being played — that different people give them intelligence and then ask the U.S. to carry out a strike — and then it turns out that the U.S. targeted a political rival,” said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert and author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.”

Congress has been troubled enough by seemingly poor targeting and civilian casualties — such as the Yemen wedding deaths — that it has sought to block President Obama’s plan to shift control of the drone campaign from the CIA to the Pentagon.

Obstacles to detention

The alleged targets of the U.S. missile strike that killed Ali Saleh al-Qawili, a schoolteacher, and his cousin, Selim Hussein Ahmad, a university student, on Jan. 23, 2013, were hardly fugitives.

Rabia Laheb, a local councilman and an active supporter of al-Qaeda, and Naji Saad, a powerful general’s bodyguard, were well-known members of Saleh’s tribe and home town, 12 miles outside the capital, according to residents of their community. They passed regularly through checkpoints, and the road they traveled on the night they were killed was dotted with checkpoints, too, relatives of Qawili and residents said.

Why they were not detained is unclear. But they had turned against Saleh in Yemen’s 2011 popular uprising, and some in their community believe that may have made them drone targets.

Residents said Laheb had held meetings for al-Qaeda at his home. Two months before his death, a drone strike killed his close associate, suspected AQAP commander Adnan al-Qadhi. The watchdog organization Human Rights Watch said Qadhi “could have been captured rather than killed.”

In a speech on U.S. drone and counterterror policy last May, Obama said strikes are taken only when there is “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” and he emphasized that the United States prefers to capture rather than kill terror suspects. But legal and military experts say it is rarely so simple.

In countries such as Yemen, the United States is unwilling to risk American troops by sending in commando units, experts say. Critics of U.S. drone operations have also accused the Obama administration of leaning on killing suspects outright since announcing plans to end detentions at Guantanamo Bay, because there is no obvious place to put captured suspects.

‘A useless war’

Critics say one result is civilian casualties. According to the Long War Journal, at least 116 people were killed in U.S. airstrikes in Yemen last year, about 15 percent of them civilians. Other monitoring groups cite higher figures.

Two months after the air strike that killed Qawili and Ahmad, Yemen’s Interior Ministry apologized in a letter to their families, saying that the cousins were innocent and that it was “their fate” to die that night. The men who paid them for a ride, the government said, were members of al-Qaeda.

The letter provided little solace to Qawili’s brother, Mohamed Ali Saleh al-Qawili, an Education Ministry bureaucrat. He formed a support group for drone victims’ families last year, and he said his quest for answers has proved illuminating.

“The bottom line is that they do not even go to the trouble of investigating, or seeing who is in a car, when [an intelligence] report is provided,” he said of the U.S. government.

Qawili said he was astonished by how many other Yemenis he met whose kin had become targets or collateral damage when their vehicles were moving in the vicinity of Yemeni army and police checkpoints, where they might have been arrested.

“This is a useless war,” he said. “And every time they kill an innocent person, they motivate the families to join al-Qaeda.”

Ali Al Mujahed in Sanaa contributed to this report.

Victims of US drones in Yemen demand justice: here.

Unnamed “senior US officials” have told the Associated Press that the Obama administration is “wrestling with whether to kill [a US citizen] with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy”: here.

The Associated Press Monday published an extraordinary report based on deliberate leaks from senior US government officials announcing that the Obama administration is “wrestling with whether to kill [an unnamed US citizen] with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy.” The targeted individual is alleged to be a terrorist residing “in a country that refuses US military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him.” The media subsequently carried various reports indicating that the individual is located in Pakistan: here.

Reporters Without Borders condemns well-known Yemeni human rights activist and blogger Feras Shamsan’s detention since 1 February, when he was arrested while covering Cairo’s International Book Fair: here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

British government attacks free speech


This video from England says about itself:

10 July 2012

4th of July Independence FROM America demonstration at the US base at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, organised by CAAB: the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases.

We hear a lot about US occupations of other countries, but little about the military occupation of Britain by the US. Menwith Hill is run by America as a spy base, with the ability to listen in to all our phone calls and intercept our emails, and claims the name ‘RAF Menwith Hill‘ rather than the more appropriate ‘USAF’ on account of its sole British military officer. All the rest are American.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

New anti-protest law is an attack on democracy

Wednesday 8th January 2014

Government revives 120-year-old legislation to stop campaigners targeting US military bases

A Labour MP launched a scathing attack yesterday on the introduction of new draconian laws targeting protesters at US military bases in Britain – without Parliament’s approval.

The government is using legislation enacted over 120 years ago to bypass Parliament and leave protesters open to “arrest without warrant.”

Leeds North East Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who has challenged the laws in the Commons, branded the laws “outrageous and undemocratic” and said he believed they were being implemented at the behest of the United States.

The laws ban activity such as putting up a tent near the bases, using a caravan, taking photographs and bizarre “offences” such as failing to clean up after a dog defecates.

Peace campaigners say two of the US bases targeted for the laws are currently unoccupied and unused.

They fear the laws are being introduced to prepare the ground for the bases’ use as the US military steps up deployment of unmanned drones to attack targets around the world.

The two deserted bases are at Croughton near Milton Keynes and an adjacent site at Barford St John.

Nominally the two are RAF bases, owned by the Ministry of Defence, but like dozens of other such bases in Britain they are handed over to the United States military.

The by-laws are being introduced at 150 military facilities by the Ministry of Defence through the Military Lands Act 1892, which enables it to bypass Parliament.

Long-time peace campaigner Lindis Percy said the by-laws themselves are not draconian – by-laws carry limited punishments, and exclude imprisonment.

But Ms Percy, who is co-ordinator of the Yorkshire-based Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), queried why the laws were being introduced, particularly at unused bases.

Ms Percy said: “I went to Barford St John a couple of months ago. It was very insecure, just a sheep fence. The security cameras are not working. There is nobody there.”

She said one “obvious answer” for the new by-laws was an anticipated increase in deployment of drones for US warfare.

And Mr Hamilton said: “I think that is a very plausible explanation. I would not be surprised.”

Mr Hamilton, who has raised questions in the Commons about the lack of accountability of US bases in Britain many times, said: “We have handed over parts of England to a foreign power with no legitimacy or democratic accountability to the people of this country. Part of the sovereign territory of our country is no longer under the control of democratically elected representatives.

“Who has debated introduction of these by-laws? No-one. I think it is outrageous. I am not being anti-American. I just care deeply about accountability and democracy. The Americans would never allow this to happen on their territory.”

See also here.

Enhanced by Zemanta