Archiv der Kategorie: Creating peace

US’s drone strikes: The culture of trauma being created by the perpetual threat of drone strikes constitutes a systematic and society wide violation of human rights. Children too afraid to sleep, people feeling unsafe in their homes, too afraid to gather for free association – all this has contributed to a spike in psychiatric problems and a more fractured society. It sets the kind of scene we in Britain remember from our grandparent’s stories of German bombing raids during World War Two.

The culture of trauma created by the perpetual threat of Obama’s drone strikes

Marienna Pope-Weidemann 03 December 2013. Posted in News

How can you confront, shame or hide from an enemy that watches, unblinking, from the sky and strikes with a computerised console five thousand miles away?

Obama and child drone victims

It is said that blue skies have stopped being beautiful in Pakistan. The Drone War has created a culture of trauma in the communities against which it’s waged. These extrajudicial killings epitomise the way violence has been systematised in the so-called war on terror.

Strike footage makes sickeningly plain the sheer imbalance of forces, and why this newly mechanised form of murder breeds terrorism in the shadows of its drones. How can you confront, shame or hide from an enemy that watches, unblinking, from the sky and strikes with a computerised console five thousand miles away?

With Islamist terrorists one side and Western troops on the other, people now have to look up, too, to watch for a reign of violence from above: drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – cruising the skies over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine and now Somalia.

A New Kind of War

As weapons they are deadly: highly effective and low risk. Their surveillance capacity is also immense, and so Western countries imposing austerity and service cuts on their own people, continue to subsidise their development.  This is a fundamentally new kind of warfare, and the role of drone technology in the military is growing at an unprecedented rate. As of 2008, the US Air Force employed twice the number of drones as it did manned planes. This is a broad transformation in the way that wars are fought – and the way people are targeted.

Legal definitions can be tricky, especially when it comes to foreign policy.  The military tend not to operate under the common definition of words like interception, extremism or in this case, militant. The debate around drones took a new turn when Obama re-defined ‘militant’ to mean any male over the age of fourteen who was  killed by US forces, unless proven innocent after death – not something the military put a great deal of effort into facilitating. It was this duplicitous manoeuvre that allowed the Pentagon to start trumpeting the incredible and ‘humane precision’ of the drones’ (the main irony there being, that drones are incredibly precise; but they are stacked with massive, indiscriminate weapons and used without due process.)

Particularly controversial are the drone ‘signature strikes’, which rather than targeting a known individual, are launched against those who, once under surveillance, are thought to ‘fit the profile’ of a terrorist. Pakistan, for example, is now informally considered a no-capture zone: arrest is not plausible, and assassination becomes the first port of call. No evidence, no trial, no verdict.

The aptly named American Predator drones are stacked with laser-guided Hellfire missiles, originally dubbed ‘fire and forget’ missiles. These incredibly powerful weapons, designed to take out entire bunkers and eliminate tanks rather than individuals, engage and reach supersonic speed in seconds. The operator, thousands of miles away, guides the missile to its target. His screen flashes white; small figures on the ground react to an unheard noise; an instant later, the entire view of the console is obliterated by an explosion, which clears to reveal a crater, and bodies blown to pieces.

The Drone Programme

The CIA’s covert drone programme was commissioned in the aftermath of 9/11, and first known drone strike took place on November 4th 2002, when the CIA assassinated six suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen.

By 2025, they are set to become an $80billion business, although over 98% of their victims are not classified as ‘high-value targets’.  Thousands of civilians, hundreds of them children, have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan alone. Death toll estimates vary drastically wherever the drones operate – and it’s been a long time now since the Americans stopped counting.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is engaged in monitoring and documenting drone strike casualties in the Middle East, reports a sharp and continuous rise in drone strike deaths in Pakistan since 2006. By 2011, civilian deaths were approaching 3,000 – of which almost 200 were children. Only 185 named militants had been killed in that time: a 16-to-1 ratio. Pakistani authorities estimate over 700 civilian deaths in 2009 alone. And casualty levels are on the rise – 123 innocent lives were lost in January 2010.

The drone war continues, despite protest and condemnation at every level, under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency and a President who promised to restrict their use, but has instead doubled it. He ordered 42 drone attacks between January and October 2009, compared to just 34 in Bush’s last full year in office. And even by the military definition of ‘militant’, over 66% of victims were civilians.

Resistance is growing

After more than 30 drone strikes hit civilian homes in Afghanistan in 2012, President Karzai demanded an end to the drone attacks – but they continue elsewhere. Back in 2008, CIA officials became concerned that targets were being tipped off by the Pakistani intelligence, so the Bush administration decided to abandon the practice of obtaining the government’s permission before launching strikes. In the next six months the CIA carried out over 38 Predator strikes in northwest Pakistan – compared with ten in 2006 and 2007 combined.

The Pakistani courts have ruled that drone strikes are illegal, making them a violation of Pakistan’s national sovereignty. Ex-CIA chief John Rizzo is now wanted in Pakistan for arrest for crimes against humanity and conspiracy to wage a war of aggression, and a mass movement against the drone programme is gathering pace on the ground. Massive demonstrations have been seen in Pakistan in recent months, with hundreds of thousands of citizens of all ages and creeds coming together to assert their right to sovereignty over their sky. In Pakistan’s Peshwar province in November 2013, thousands of protesters blocked NATO’s convoy route in and out of Afghanistan.

The protests were led by the country’s foremost opposition party, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, led by former cricketer Imran Khan. Khan has criticised the Pakistani government for its failure to take meaningful action against the drone programme, in opposition to its so-called ‘US allies’. For Khan, the urgency of halting drone strikes is heightened still further by the threat they pose to his country’s peace talks with the Taliban.“We will put pressure on America and our protest will continue if the drone attacks are not stopped,” he warned.

Also in November, PTI members based in London organised a coordinated protest outside the US Embassy, where hundreds gathered to chants of ‘no justice, no peace’ and ‘drones fly, children die’. “The main reason we are protesting is that [drone attacks are] bringing instability to the country, it’s creating more militancy in Pakistan, more terrorism,” said Shahbaz Khan, President of PTI London. “People living in the north-west Pakistan are living under constant fear and kids are being traumatised. They cannot live their normal lives anymore and people need to know this.”

Chris Nineham, vice-chair of the Stop the War Coalition, decried the notion that the CIA could be trusted to minimise casualties and respect human rights, reminding the press gathered there that these were the armed representatives of governments complicit in repression, secrecy and torture all over the world. He told the impassioned crowd that the combined efforts of the anti-war movement in the Middle East and across the world had won the battle for public opinion. “In country after country around the world, the vast majority of the population have called for an end to these strikes. Our job is to mobilise that majority.”

Voices from below

The vast majority of drone strike victims are faceless. None but those who mourn them know their names. But there are some faces, thanks to the courage of a few decent journalists, which the world has got the chance to see.

One such face belonged to Tariq Aziz, a sixteen-year old student and avid football fan who became what you might call ‘politicised’ after his cousin was killed by a drone. Those who knew him observed his desire to be a constructive force for his country, to make the killing stop. He began organising protests and working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to help document civilian casualties. In October 2011, he attended his first public conference in Islamabad. Less than a week later, he was killed by a drone strike, along with his twelve-year-old cousin. “Tariq’s killing was illegal,” said Neil Williams, a British photographer who had befriended him. “It was murder.”

On 24th October 2012, a primary school was hit by a drone strike. Thankfully the children were not in class; but the family of their teacher was at home. His three children were injured, and his 67-year old mother, Mammana Bibi, was killed. Her son said he knew she was dead when he came across her sandal by itself. When they discovered her body in the distance, neighbours refused to grant him access, fearing that the severity of her injuries would prove too traumatic.

With the help of Reprieve, Mammana’s son Rafiq ur-Rehmanis now suing the CIA and the UK government for its complicity in what Amnesty International and UN representatives classify as a war crime. He was able to travel with his two children to speak before the US Congress, though his lawyer has been denied exit visas since he began representing drone strike victims.

„Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq told the congressmen. “Some media outlets reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Others reported that the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All of them reported that three, four, five militants were killed. But only one person was killed that day… Not a militant, but my mother.”

The courage of these survivors and their determination to see justice done has helped push the drone war into the public consciousness, and the battle for public opinion has been won. America is an exception: 61 per cent approve of drone strikes against foreign ‘terrorists’. Undoubtedly this can be attributed in part to the CIA’s ability to hide behind its very broad definition of who is and is not a ‘militant’. But as popular awareness builds around the true nature of drone strikes abroad, and furthermore the domestic use of drones for surveillance on US citizens, there is a growing sense of unease around the whole principle.

Fuel on the fire

The reality is that drones are not only monstrous weapons – they are counterproductive. Drones have galvanised anti-American sentiment amongst both the people of these ‘allied’ countries. Government officials on both sides of the Atlantic, some of whom are vocal advocates of the ‘war on terror’, warn that drone strikes only put fuel on the fire.

Former US State Department deputy chief in Yemen, Nabeel Khoury, stated: “Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians. Given Yemen’s tribal structure, the US generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every operative killed by drones… In war, unmanned aircraft may be a necessary part of a comprehensive military strategy. In a country where we are not at war, however, drones become part of our foreign policy, dominating it altogether, to the detriment of both our security and political goals.” Even so, business is booming. Boeing alone has already raked in over $1.8 billion in drone contracts. No wonder, then, that the industry spends millions on lobbying each year.

Entire communities are being led to understand that they are the enemy. And we make them our enemies, by allowing their children and parents and siblings to be murdered from the sky on our behalf. The key to defeating the Taliban, argue a host of experts, is the support of the rural tribes. But the drone war makes that impossible. It has removed the need for al Qaeda to recruit – they will be flooded with volunteers for as long as the drone strikes and imperial occupations continue. It was spelled out by the would-be bomber of Time Square in his testimony in June 2010. He explained he had witnessed the drone strikes and was acting in retaliation. “The drones, when they hit… They don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, we kill people.”

So we call, as ever, for unity in opposition to the killing, and for a stand against terrorism on both sides – but especially to its deadliest forms, which are bankrolled by our taxes, because that is our responsibility, and struggling against that is at any rate our best means of halting the other.

The culture of trauma being created by the perpetual threat of drone strikes constitutes a systematic and society wide violation of human rights. Children too afraid to sleep, people feeling unsafe in their homes, too afraid to gather for free association – all this has contributed to a spike in psychiatric problems and a more fractured society. It sets the kind of scene we in Britain remember from our grandparent’s stories of German bombing raids during World War Two.

Technology: our choice

One more thing which provides propagandistic cover for the drone programme is the blurring of the lines between civilian and military uses for drone technology. Beyond the military, the purposes served by this technology are infinitely more constructive and inspiring. They’re teaching us more about the planet and nature conservation than we’ve been able to ascertain for decades. Drones operated solely by thought have endlessly improved the lives of brain-stroke victims. They show remarkable promise when it comes to emergency provision during natural disasters and for the billion people on Earth who have no access to safe road systems. But to put these two uses on either side of the debate, as academic and media do all too often, is deeply duplicitous.

A recent series of lectures produced by TEDTalk, for example, was entitledDrones: will they save us, or destroy us? – as though we can’t have them save lives without allowing them to take them; as though the answer to that question were somehow contingent upon a decision made by drones, rather than by the way in which scientists, governments and the public take responsibility for the direction in which these technologies are developed. In the existing economic system, technological development moves where money leads it. Investment goes to the most profitable ends, not the more useful ones.

And the collision course between the interest of the military-industrial complex and the rest of society is becoming more and more apparent. We are at an impasse when it comes to drone technology, much like we are with the internet. The internet can be left to become a highly centralised, corporatizedmechanism for global surveillance; or we can fight to put it back under social control, as a means to transmit information as a challenge to unjust power, while protecting the privacy of the powerless to speak out. Likewise with the drones – they run on our collective wealth, and it is up to us to determine whether they’re dropping medical aid or Hellfire missiles.

And we must take that seriously, because with honourable exception many of the scientists developing such technology have, to quote Vandana Shiva, ‘the world view of a petree dish’. They are actively discouraged, through education and into the work place, from thinking critically about the social function of what they produce.

In the first lecture of the TEDtalk series on drones Regina Dugan, who formerly oversaw the Pentagon’s research innovation programme before going to sell her services to the world’s second-most powerful institution, Google. She amazed audiences with a small humming bird drone able to fly in reverse. She spoke for twenty minutes without a single reference to the most profitable sector for drone technology, which generated most of her funding: the Pentagon and private military contractors. After her lecture, which was as buoyant as it was non-specific, she was asked for what purpose her glider, unsuitable for passenger use but capable of incredible speeds, might be used for.

“Our responsibility,” she replied confidently, “is to develop the technology for this. The way it’s ultimately used will be determined by the military. The purpose of the technology is to be able to reach anywhere in the world in less than sixty minutes.”

“And to carry a pay load of more than a few pounds,” the questioner prompts.

“Yes,” she admits. “I don’t think we ultimately know how much…”

“But not necessarily just a camera,” he presses. The audience gives a dry laugh; clearly, a considerable number have come to discuss the extrajudicial murder carried out by her former employer with such ‘innovations’. And for the first time since she’s been on stage, she drops her eyes to the ground and loses the smile.

“No, not necessarily just a camera.” The audience laughs again. She looks confused.

But of course in the real world, drones tend not to just carry cameras. Predator drones are stacked with laser-guided Hellfire missiles, which weigh 100 pounds and were originally dubbed ‘fire and forget’ missiles. These incredibly powerful weapons, designed to take out entire bunkers and eliminate tanks rather than individuals, engage and reach supersonic speed in seconds. In the 12 months from June 2005, Predators carried out 2,073 known missions and participated in 242 separate raids.

The operator, thousands of miles away, guides the missile to its target. His screen flashes white; small figures on the ground react to an unheard noise; an instant later, the entire view of the console is obliterated by an explosion, which clears to reveal a crater, and bodies blown to pieces.

Stop the War Coalition

http://stopwar.org.uk/news/the-culture-of-trauma-created-by-the-perpetual-threat-of-obama-s-drone-strikes#.Up83IdJLMR4

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NATO and the headache of declining US military and economic power: Break the link between foreign policy and the project for the new American Century. Breaking the link with NATO is inevitably central to that aim.

NATO and the headache of declining US military and economic power

Chris Nineham 28 November 2013. Posted in News

As the United States wakes up to a new world order of intense competition from Russia and China, Chris Nineham asks what the future holds for NATO, a linchpin of US world dominance for over 60 years


NATO soldiers

Politicians are celebrating the announcement that the NATO conference will be in South Wales next year. With no sign of irony they tell us it will be a boost for jobs and tourism, a chance to showcase the country.

Before serving up the platitudes and bringing on the celebrations, they would do well to consider exactly what kind of organisation is being hosted at the Celtic Manor ‘golf resort’ near Newport next September.

Right now NATO is trying to deal with a double identity crisis, but its basic purpose has always been to insure US control over European foreign policy in order better to project deadly US power around the globe.

NATO was set up in 1949 at the start of the Cold War. Ostensibly it was a mutual defence pact uniting the US and Western Europe against the threat of Soviet invasion. The reality was a little different.

First, it was part of a wider strategy to encircle, intimidate and outgun the USSR in order to ruin it. The nuclear arms race it helped to engineer put so much strain on the Soviet state that it collapsed by the early 1990s.

Second, by militarily uniting the western countries under US control, it ensured US dominance over Europe. It tied the Europeans into support for a post-Second World War foreign policy that claimed to be pro-democracy and anti-colonial, but was in fact lethally aggressive. Up to the year 2000 the US bombed at least 27 countries, assassinated or attempted to assassinate thirty world leaders and tried to overthrow forty governments. These efforts included all out wars in Korea from 1950-3, Vietnam and then Cambodia from the mid sixties until 1973 and one of the most sustained aerial bombing campaigns in world history organised by NATO itself against Serbia in 1999.

Third, NATO co-ordinated secret special forces operations across Europe to subvert the left and prepare action against possible left wing governments. ‘Operation Gladio’ in Italy, the most famous of these NATO-led networks, was exposed in 1990. Gladio appears to have played a major role in subverting the Italian left in the 1970s and 80s, but it has since become clear that similar special operations were set up in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey 

The collapse of the Soviet satellites and then the Soviet Union itself from 1989 was a bittersweet moment for NATO’s bloated bureaucracy. On the one hand it marked triumph over the main enemy, on the other hand it raised existential questions. NATO was in danger of becoming a victim of its own propaganda. For decades the ‘Communist Bloc’ had been portrayed as the big threat to peace and the free world. Its collapse threatened to remove the need for US military leadership in Europe and for the huge build-up of arms and armies that NATO had encouraged in Europe in the decades since the war.

The fact that NATO stayed together – in fact expanded – in the post-cold war world confirmed that it was never simply about containing the USSR. David Rothkopf, one of the architects of a new NATO policy under President Clinton, explained the real dynamic behind post-war US interventionism:

‘Pax Americana came with an implicit price tag to nations that accepted the US security umbrella. If a country depended on the United States for security protection, it dealt with the United States on trade and commercial matters’.

The swift expansion of NATO in to Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union confirmed that NATO was a key element of the US imperial project. Partly it was designed to insure that the Soviet states looked westward for aid, markets and investment. But it was also a way of pre-empting any possible alliance between Western European powers and a Russia struggling in the free market maelstrom. NATO enlargement into Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary gave the US the role of gatekeeper between Russia and Germany. As a 1992 Defense Department planning document put it, ‘our first objective is to prevent the emergence of a new rival’ .

More generally NATO was a key platform in the US plan to reorganise the world economy – to open up the whole world to US business and to tie in as much of it as possible politically. NATO’s slogan was ‘out of area or out of business.’ In the absence of the communist threat the US had to draw the Europeans in to aggressive wars in order to ramp up their firepower and retain leadership of a Western alliance. No surprise then that NATO led its first shooting wars in the Balkans in 1990s, first against the Serbs in Bosnia then in the much more deadly campaign against the Serbs in the Kosovo war of 1999. Another first was in the branding. It was at this time Western wars came to be presented as ‘humanitarian interventions.’

9/11 gave rise to a period of US unilateralism. Partly the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon gave Washington hawks the chance to go it alone. Partly too, many NATO powers were queasy about an attack on Iraq. But a use was soon found for NATO once the small coalition of the willing got bogged down in Iraq. In 2006 NATO took up joint control of operations in the disastrous occupation of Afghanistan, and so took the central role in the longest colonial adventure since the great wave of decolonisation that began at the end of World War 2.

It was also the command umbrella for Operation Unified Protector, the 2011 bombing campaign of Libya. The grand labelling was misleading, the campaign was riven by squabbling and manoeuvring as France, Germany, Britain and the US tried to maximise their bomb rate and therefore – they hoped – their influence in post-Gaddafi Libya. This unseemly scramble led to the death of tens of thousands of Libyans and the complete unravelling of the Libyan state.

Western setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the humiliating failure of Obama and Cameron and Hollande to lead a new western intervention in Syria, have created a renewed sense of doubt about NATO’s role to add to lingering post-Cold War uncertainty. US experts complain that European military spending accounts for 20% of NATO’s budget compared to 40% in 1980. Many are indignant at anti-militarist attitudes in Europe. Robert Kaplan complains that ‘Europeans tend to see their armed forces members as civil servants in funny uniforms. The idea that it is the military that defends their democratic freedoms is something that Europeans find laughable’ 

It’s a sense of doubt which belligerent Washington intellectuals are busily trying to dispel. The US still needs NATO. Kaplan himself insists that ‘NATO is American hegemony on the cheap’. It helps to ensure European political coherence under US control. It lessens the danger of Germany pivoting into an alliance with Russia, and it provides an organising framework for the project of coralling the newly discovered mineral wealth on the African continent. Most important of all, the US has emerged from the euphoria of the unipolar moment with a massive headache. It has woken up to a new world order of intense competition.

A re-energised Russia is trying to reassert its influence in Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. But much worse, China threatens to outstrip the US economically in a few decades and is building up political influence across the world. In this frightening new environment NATO will be an essential prop for US power. Demands that Europe scale up arms spending to deal with Africa and the Middle East, as the US ‘pivots to the East’ will get louder.  The attack on Libya and Cameron and Hollande’s rush to war on Syria shows that many western capitals will see this not as a burden but an opportunity to revive glorious colonial traditions.

The worst case scenario is that NATO will be used to drag European powers into confrontations with the US’s emerging challengers.

Stop the War Coalition’s central strategic purpose has been to break the link between British foreign policy and the project for the new American Century. Breaking the UK link with NATO is inevitably central to that aim.

Chris Nineham is joint national chair of Stop the War Coalition and a speaker at the International Anti-war Conference in London on 30 November 2013

http://stopwar.org.uk/news/nato-and-the-headache-of-declining-us-military-and-economic-power#.Up8gcdJLMR5

Speeches at International Anti-War-Conference in London on video! The general feeling was that the Middle East remains highly unstable and a target for imperialism, and that there are growing tensions elsewhere, especially in the Pacific with growing conflict between China on the one hand and Japan and the US on the other. The conference heard from a number of guest speakers including US journalist Jeremy Scahill, Indian campaigner Manik Mukherjee, Diane Abbott MP, Guardian journalists Jonathan Steele and Seumas Milne, Stop the War president Tony Benn, Jean Lambert MEP.

Speeches at international anti-war conference 30.11.13

Posted in Video

Message from Lindsey German, national convener Stop the War Coalition

A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the conference on 30 November 2013. With over 400 registrations, plus speakers, volunteers and guests, it was a great chance to discuss and debate a range of issues from drone wars to the history of British imperialism, from the Middle East to Africa. The conference heard from a number of guest speakers including US journalist Jeremy Scahill, Indian campaigner Manik MukherjeeDiane Abbott MP, Guardian journalists Jonathan Steele and Seumas Milne, Stop the War president Tony BennJean Lambert MEP and many others. The various sessions were lively and well attended.

The conference was another chance to discuss the changing situation following the Syria vote in the British parliament, which forced the US and Britain to abandon its plan for direct airstrikes. At the same time, the general feeling was that the Middle East remains highly unstable and a target for imperialism, and that there are growing tensions elsewhere, especially in the Pacific with growing conflict between China on the one hand and Japan and the US on the other.

Below is a selection of speeches from the conference. Click image to play…