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Forum Post: Local Resistance to the NDAA Amps Up, Spans Political Spectrum

Posted 8 months ago on Feb. 21, 2014, 3:29 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Local Resistance to the NDAA Amps Up, Spans Political Spectrum

Friday, 21 February 2014 10:44 By Britney Schultz, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/21965-local-resistance-to-the-ndaa-amps-up-spans-political-spectrum

A recent decision by the Obama administration to consider a drone strike against a US citizen and perceived "terrorist" brings the conflict of executive authority and civil and constitutional rights back in the spotlight as local resistance to the NDAA is spreading across the country.

On February 10, 2014, The Associated Press reported that the Obama administration was considering a drone strike against an American citizen, who - officials say - is a terrorism threat to the United States. This story has brought the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) and its legal implications back into the limelight.

Author and activist David Swanson recently raised the question of the difference between "legality" and "policy": "Under the US Constitution, the laws of the nations in which drone murders take place, treaties to which the US is party, international law and US statutory law, murdering people remains illegal, despite being policy, just as it was illegal under the less strict policy of some months back."

Last May, Obama changed his overseas drone policy to shift control of the weapons from the CIA to the Department of Defense. This means that American citizens suspected of posing a terror threat can be bombed by the military only and not the CIA, which puts the onus on the DOJ to prove the person can be classified an "enemy combatant."

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, says there is an administrative procedure to decide whether someone is an enemy combatant. Once someone is designated as such, he or she can file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court to prove he or she is innocent of any terrorist connections and that court could release the individual. "But this rarely happens," she said.

In a fact sheet released by the White House last year, the policy, as it applies to American citizens, is explained:

If the United States considers an operation against a terrorist identified as a US person, the Department of Justice will conduct an additional legal analysis to ensure that such action may be conducted against the individual consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Yet directly after this, the statement reads: "These new standards and procedures do not limit the President's authority to take action in extraordinary circumstances when doing so is both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies."

In a press release responding to the AP report, Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, said:

The government's killing program has gone far beyond what the law permits, and it is based on secret evidence and legal interpretations. The targeted killing of an American being considered right now shows the inherent danger of a killing program based on vague and shifting legal standards, which has made it disturbingly easy for the government to operate outside the law.

The implications of the Obama administration's recent deliberation can be applied to a broader context when examined through the lens of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the US military to detain any American citizen it deems a terrorism suspect. But are there any real assurances that American citizens' constitutional rights will be respected?

Hedges v. Obama

In January 2012, a group of journalists, activists and academics, including Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NDAA.

Opponents of the NDAA claimed a victory in 2012 when US District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District of New York declared Section 1021 of the NDAA unconstitutional. Forrest said the language of the provision, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, was too vague and that it could possibly violate citizens' First Amendment rights.

The White House immediately appealed Forrest's decision. And in July 2013, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled 3-0 that the American co-plaintiffs could not challenge the NDAA because they lacked standing.

Legislative Action

On February 6, 2014, the New Hampshire state House of Representatives approved HB 1279, which states, "This bill prohibits the state, political subdivisions, and the national guard from participating in enforcement of the counterterrorism detainment provisions of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act." The bill will next be considered by the Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs committee of the state Senate and is slated to take effect January 1, 2015.

Other states have introduced similar legislation, such as Montana's HB 522, which was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock in April 2013. Hawaii formally has opposed indefinite detention, while Virginia codified state noncompliance with federal agents by passing HB 1160 in April 2012. In fact, 2012 saw a flurry of states introducing bills in opposition to the NDAA.

While the plaintiffs to the Hedges v. Obama suit hail from the left wing of the political sphere and opposition to the statute is often considered a progressive issue, grassroots opposition comes from across the political spectrum.

Activists and lawmakers have used the legislative approach to voice their opposition to the NDAA, but Dan Johnson, founder and national director of People Against the NDAA (PANDA), says a grassroots approach is more effective.

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Local Resistance

Local resistance to the NDAA has been emerging around the country. In October 2013, the common council of Albany, New York, unanimously passed Resolution 80.92.13, which states in part:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Common Council of the City of Albany acting in the spirit and history of our community, does hereby declare that we:

  • Strongly affirm our loyalty to the rights and liberties enshrined within the Constitution of the United States, including the Fifth Amendment right to due process and the Sixth Amendment right to trial;

  • Recognize that the City of Albany is not a "battlefield," and its citizens and constitutionally-protected persons are not currently subject to "detention under the law of war";

  • Expect all federal and state law enforcement officials acting within the City of Albany to work in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, and in cooperation with the Albany Police Department, by assuring that any person subject to detention be afforded access to a trial, counsel and due process, including under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution and Article III thereof;

That same month, two communities in Massachusetts passed similar resolutions, and more followed suit.

Oxford, Massachusetts, resident Marla Zeneski headed the efforts in her community to put the resolution on the Special Town Meeting warrant. She gathered the required signatures and created an informational video that played on the town's public access channel in the weeks before the resolution went up for the citizens' vote, which passed with 95 percent of residents in favor.

Zeneski said that a year prior to the resolution vote, members of the Occupy movement, the Tea Party movement and the local ACLU locked arms in protest of the NDAA law at a demonstration in Worcester, Massachusetts.

"As you know, this is a completely nonpartisan issue," Zeneski said. "I heard Benjamin Selecky, the head of PANDA Massachusetts, speak at a Tea Party meeting. He spoke passionately about the NDAA, sections 1021 and 1022 and what it meant for Americans. He was very informative. And when he asked who would go forward and take back their town, my hand shot up!"

A Three-Pronged Strategy

"Who's more likely to defend civil rights - a Fed in Washington or a police officer in your local town?" asks PANDA national Director Dan Johnson. His organization's mission is to oppose "the NDAA, indefinite detention without charge or trial, and the application of the laws of war to US soil and American citizens."

Johnson says the advantage of the grassroots approach is that representatives (city council, police) are closer to the people and thus can be held accountable more easily.

The group's strategy is threefold. First, Johnson says, a community must put into writing what can't and shouldn't happen in a local area, effectively blocking the application of the "laws of war" in that city.* The resolution PANDA outlines states two things: That the NDAA was null and void from the start, and that because the NDAA authorizes the indefinite detention of any person in the United States without a charge or a trial - violating constitutional rights - any attempt by the government to utilize the NDAA in this jurisdiction will be considered kidnapping.

Johnson says that if a community has ruled an action (such as military detainment) illegal and unconstitutional within its jurisdiction, any federal official who attempts to detain a citizen in that town under the NDAA will be viewed as an individual in violation of local law and will be considered a kidnapper. The official would be prosecuted as an individual and would not be protected by the authority of the person's federal office.

Johnson says that when a community adopts a resolution, it allows the local district attorney to prosecute an individual who violates the ordinance. If federal officials attempted to come into that city to detain someone, they'd have to provide a warrant or a notice of a warrant to the local police department.

The next step in PANDA's strategy is to approach the community's local police department or sheriff's office to urge officers to uphold their oath to the Constitution. The organization has outlined a resolution for law enforcement, which states that no one employed by the sheriff's office will support, in any way shape or form, the enforcement of the NDAA and that anyone employed by the sheriff's office will step in against the federal government if it or one of its agents attempts to enforce the NDAA in that county.

Oxford police Chief Michael Hassett declined to give a formal statement on how the town's police would enforce the resolution but said that if a bylaw is passed in his jurisdiction, he will uphold it.

Johnson says it is up to every official who takes an oath to the Constitution to protect those rights. The officer must interpose if he or she determines a law is unconstitutional. Therefore, only a person who takes an oath has the authority to determine the constitutionality of a law, Johnson says. The decision of whether to enforce or not enforce something falls to the individual officer, but Johnson says that the resolution should be added to the police department's policy handbook to be available for all officers.

Johnson says that citizens must be ever-vigilant, and the third step in the strategy is to develop a citizens' watch in the community to provide an apparatus for concerned citizens to sound an "alarm system" if they believe the resolution is being violated. He says the citizens' watch will allow residents to hold officials and law enforcement accountable; if police assist in violating the community's resolution or turn a blind eye to it, it would be "political suicide" and officers could even be prosecuted.

Johnson says the reaction to PANDA's "Take Back Our Cities" grassroots campaign has been mostly supportive, but the group has met some resistance. When the Restoring Constitutional Governance resolution came up for a vote by the board of selectmen in Northbridge, Massachusetts, the finance committee opposed adopting the measure. Finance Committee Chairman Salvatore D. D'Amato Jr. explained his opposition by saying that the NDAA was necessary to protect American citizens at home.

Johnson says that since the movement opposing the NDAA is decentralized, it is hard to estimate how many cities are actively working on the issue. But Johnson estimates around 60 cities are pushing PANDA-endorsed resolutions.

*The Center for Constitutional Rights points out: "The NDAA allows for detention until the 'end of hostilities,' which in the context of a so-called global war on terror, could mean forever. And those held in indefinite detention are not necessarily afforded the fundamental rights which many take for granted in the US, including the right to counsel, to a trial, to confront one's accusers, etc."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Complaint at World Court Alleges NATO Members Complicit in War Crimes

Friday, 21 February 2014 11:52 By Candice Bernd, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22025-nato-members-complicit-in-drone-strikes-world-court-complaint-alleges

Lawyers with the British human rights organization Reprieve filed a legal complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) Wednesday documenting the experiences of Pakistani anti-drone activist Kareem Khan and other drone strike victims and accusing NATO allied states of war crimes by helping to facilitate the United States’ covert drone program in Pakistan.

Khan was abducted from his home in Rawalpindi this month by a group of about 20 armed men, but was later released after a massive outcry from anti-drone activists internationally. Khan said he was blindfolded and handcuffed for eight days in a basement, where he was tortured with physical beatings and mental abuse in what he and his lawyers said was an attempt to silence him for speaking out about the reality of drone strikes.

Khan said one of his abductors hung him upside down and hit the soles of his feet continuously with a leather strap to avoid leaving a mark. Khan has been an outspoken critic of the US covert drone program since his 18-year-old son and his brother were killed in a US drone strike in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan in December 2009.

Attorney’s from Reprieve worked with UK-based barristers and human rights solicitors at The Hague to file a legal complaint based on recent revelations that NATO member-states, including the UK, Germany and Australia, support US drone strikes by sharing intelligence. The complaint argues that since these countries are signatories to the Rome Statute, they are under the jurisdiction of the World Court and can be investigated for war crimes. The United States is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, however.

"When my son died, I first went to local courts. They have not been able to help. I am now going to the international court in the hopes that they can give me answers. I would go anywhere for my son. I loved him and miss him dearly. He deserves justice," Khan said. He spoke to Truthout both over the phone and through email messages, in which his lawyers translated.

The prosecutor’s office at the ICC, in a November 2013 report on the prosecutor’s preliminary examination into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, found that "war crimes and crimes against humanity were and, continue to be, committed in Afghanistan." Prosecutors indicated they would examine whether the Afghan government has taken sufficient measures to investigate and prosecute the crimes before moving to open a formal investigation. Afghanistan signed the Rome Statute in 2003.

According to Jennifer Gibson, a staff attorney at Reprieve, the complaint argues that since the drones are being flown out from bases in Afghanistan, the ICC has territorial jurisdiction over the drone strikes occurring in Pakistan and that the prosecutor’s office should include the drone strikes in their considerations about whether to open a formal investigation in Afghanistan.

"For Mr. Khan and the others listed in the complaint, this is possibly one of the last forums for their voices to be heard. They don’t have access to the courts in the US, the Pakistani government hasn’t enforced Peshawar high court decision, the British have just kicked out our UK case in the high court over location intelligence sharing, and our argument here is the victims deserve a forum to be heard," Gibson told Truthout.

Khan and his lawyers, including Shahzad Akbar, who is a fellow at Reprieve and represents more than 156 drone strike victims, are also meeting with European parliamentarians this week to tell the stories of drone strike victims and survivors. British parliamentarians have become increasingly concerned about the use of drones since it was revealed that intelligence officials at their Government Communications Headquarters have been providing targeting information to their US counterparts.

Another Pakistani family whom Akbar is representing testified before the US Congress about the drone strike that killed Rafiq ur-Rehman's mother while she was working in a field just outside his village of Tappi, in the tribal region of North Waziristan, in October 2012. It was the first testimonial from drone-strike survivors before Congress. Akbar, who was supposed to serve as the family’s translator and guide, accused the State Department of delaying his visa to prevent the family from telling their stories to Congressional representatives.

"I have been overwhelmed by my interactions with European parliamentarians and ministry officials. Not only did they work to get me released last week from detention, but this week they have intently listened to me share my experiences with drone strikes. I am hopeful that after hearing about what happened to my family, Europeans will begin to question the actions of their ally and demand the US drones be stopped," Khan said.

Khan has fought an ongoing legal battle with the Pakistani government and United States. In a 2010 lawsuit he filed in the Islamabad High Court, he identified the then-CIA station chief in Pakistan, Jonathan Banks, for his alleged role in the drone attack.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, President Obama has launched more than 390 covert drone strikes in his first five years in office, killing more than 2,400 people, with at least 273 of them reported as civilians. The bureau has also reported that the CIA has not carried out any strikes in Pakistan so far in 2014 - the longest hiatus recorded in Obama’s presidency.

But if the White House is stepping back from continuous strikes for now, those who have been personally affected by the covert drone program are stepping up to tell their stories.

"A wrong has been done to me. The only option I have is to seek justice within the bounds of law. Last week, many people raised their voices to help me. Without them, I would not be here today. They showed that accountability is important. I hope by speaking, I can help make the US accountable for what drones have done to my family and others in my community," Khan told Truthout.

He also said that despite his abduction, he does not fear returning to Pakistan as his trip to Europe wraps up.

"Pakistan is my country. I love it and will return to it, so I can continue to speak out against drone strikes. The US and others need to know who the strikes are killing. They are killing people like my son - civilians," he said.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Excessive Force? Migrant Shot Dead by US Border Agent Near San Diego After Throwing Rock

Friday, 21 February 2014 11:40 By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

http://truth-out.org/news/item/22028-excessive-force-migrant-shot-dead-by-us-border-agent-near-san-diego-after-throwing-rock

While the United States, Mexico and Canada held a major summit in Mexico on Wednesday, U.S. border policies are back in the spotlight after a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man near San Diego, California, on Tuesday. Officials said the agent was pursuing a group of people suspected of crossing the border from Mexico. When a man threw a rock at him, the agent opened fire and killed him. The agent suffered minor injuries and declined hospital care. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general recently found U.S. border agents have been involved in 20 fatalities since 2010, eight of which — that’s nearly half — involved rock throwing. For more, we’re joined by John Carlos Frey, an investigative reporter who has long reported on immigration, and more recently on killings of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

TRANSCRIPT:

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Folk music legend Odetta on September 11th, 2002, singing at our old firehouse studios marking the exact time that United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, while the United States, Mexico and Canada held a major summit in Mexico on Wednesday, U.S. border policies are back in the spotlight after a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed a man near San Diego, California, on Tuesday. Officials said the agent was pursuing a group of people suspected of crossing the border from Mexico. When a man threw a rock at him, the agent opened fire and killed him. The agent suffered minor injuries and declined hospital care.

AMY GOODMAN: A September report released by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general showed U.S. border agents have been involved in 20 fatalities since 2010, eight of which—that’s nearly half—involved rock throwing. An uncensored copy of the report, obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, showed it featured a recommendation from a think tank that agents use restraint when dealing with rock throwers. But in the copy that was publicly released, that recommendation was blacked out.

Well, for more, we’re joined by John Carlos Frey, an investigative reporter who has long reported on immigration, and more recently on killings of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. His work is supported by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, John. Talk about what happened, the killing on the border.

JOHN CARLOS FREY: The most recent report that I’ve read and the report that comes out of those that are investigating in the sheriff’s department in the area say that a Border Patrol agent was in pursuit of a migrant, separated from his partner. He was by himself. The suspected migrant started throwing rocks. There’s even an allegation that he threw a basketball-sized rock towards the agent—I’m not quite sure how you can do that. And the agent opened fire, fired twice, striking the migrant and killing him. And this seems to be a pattern. Obviously, the migrant’s not going to be able to speak up for himself as to what happened. But agents are allowed to use deadly force when being confronted with rock throwing. And that seems to be what happened here.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how is the Border Patrol justifying its rejection of a recommendation of its own inspector general on its policies for shootings of unarmed migrants?

JOHN CARLOS FREY: If you take a look at the recommendations, they’re actually quite sane. PERF, which is the think tank, the Police Executive Research Forum, it’s a group of law enforcement officers, professionals, who recommended to U.S. Border Patrol agents not necessarily to take away any sort of use of force when confronted with rock throwers, but to tamp it down, to de-escalate the situation, to move from the area, to actually physically move from the region where rocks are being thrown, or to take cover or to use nonlethal force. Those were the recommendations by PERF, and Border Patrol decided to deny all of those. They would like to still be able to use deadly force.

They claim in the past 10 years there have been about 6,000 confrontations with rock throwers. But there never has been an agent killed by rock throwers, so the use of deadly force seems a bit excessive, if agents themselves have never been killed by rocks. If you go to any major law enforcement agency in the country, in the United States, killing or shooting rock throwers, using guns to shoot rock throwers, would be forbidden by police agencies across the country. So it’s interesting that Border Patrol claim that it’s a necessity for them.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting also that this is taking place against the backdrop of the Tres Amigos summit in Mexico with Canadian, Mexican and American leaders. The three North American leaders expected to announce an easing of border controls for corporate executives, and yet at the same time you have this killing of a migrant on the border. John Carlos?

JOHN CARLOS FREY: Yeah, it’s interesting also, too, the circumstances under which these happen. I’m not denying that Border Patrol agents have a dangerous job and that they need to at times possibly use their weapons, but it always seems when the conditions or when the details are suspicious, Border Patrol agents can claim rock throwing, rock throwing in any circumstances. I’m actually in Tucson right now taking a deeper look into a 16-year-old who was killed about a year and a half ago, shot 10 times in the back by a Border Patrol agent for allegedly throwing rocks. And if you go to the area where this young man was killed, it’s next to impossible for him to have been able to throw a rock. He would have had to have thrown it through an almost impenetrable border fence.

So, you know, these claims of rock throwing and being able to fire weapons are not policies that the United States actually supports in other zones around the world. Israel and Palestine, we’ve brokered deals between those two countries where Israeli troops are asked to fire rubber bullets as opposed to lethal weapons. So, we’re not really abiding by our own policies across the globe, but for some reason we can do that here at the United States-Mexico border.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, this summit, the impact in Mexico and on the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, that—the failure to move immigration reform here in the United States, what impact that’s having in Mexico?

JOHN CARLOS FREY: I think it’s—you know, we expect Mexico to be our partner. We expect Mexico to be a friend and a neighbor, our third-largest trading partner. But there seems to be a push against Mexicans themselves coming to the United States. I hate to sort of claim racial bias here, but I believe that if immigration reform was about a different country or a different group of people, we might be able to move it forward. There really is sort of a bias against Spanish-speaking or brown people coming to the United States. There seems to be a xenophobia or a perceived threat that these people are going to be taking over with their culture, with their language. So, especially along the Southwest is where I see it the most. We have a fortified militarized zone here, where we have drones flying over. We have 700 to 800 miles of border fence. We have a military-style equipment and footing where we’re actually now shooting people actually in Mexico, shooting across the border. So there’s this real perceived pushback against Mexico. And I think trying to find a way to alleviate this less-than-neighborly policy is where we really need to start, before immigration reform is even a possibility. If Mexico is considered criminal, it’s going to be really difficult for Congress to even grant any sort of legal status.

AMY GOODMAN: John Carlos Frey, we want to thank you for being with us and for all your work as an investigative reporter who has long reported on immigration, and more recently on the killings of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Thanks so much for being with us—

JOHN CARLOS FREY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: —joining us from Tucson.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

"Sky Raper": Drones Are Tools of the Patriarchy

Friday, 21 February 2014 09:49 By Allison Kilkenny, Unreported | Op-Ed

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/22019-sky-raper-drones-are-tools-of-the-patriarchy

Journalists Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald posted a disturbing report at their new site The Intercept about the NSA’s secret role in the U.S. assassination program. It’s a fascinating read, and I recommend you read it in its entirety, but I wanted to explore a very specific passage in the report—an interview with a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA.

The former drone operator explains that remotely piloted Reaper and Predator vehicles are often given cute little nicknames. For example, those used in Afghanistan were called “Lightning” and “Sky Raider.”

Badass!

But then the source candidly reveals there’s a subset of nicknames. The “Sky Raider” was also referred to as “Sky Raper” because “it killed a lot of people.”

Badas—Wait, whaaaat.

When operators were assigned to “Sky Raper,” he adds, it meant that “somebody was going to die. It was always set to the most high-priority missions.”

So here we have a bunch of joystick jockeys not only responsible for killing nameless, faceless brown people thousands of miles away, but as if that wasn’t enough of a violation, they decided to sprinkle a dash of rape culture onto their acts of horrific violence.

Sky Raper. The name reminds me of how my hipster journalist friends refer to drones as “sky death robots,” or similarly creepy euphemisms — names that would never actually be used officially by military brass because they’re too close to the truth. That’s why the military comes up with polite, sterile terms like collateral damage and kinetic military action in order to insert a wedge between civilians and the terrible consequences of war.

But here is the truth: Sky Raper.

The comment is extremely revealing because it lays bare the true nature of patriarchy, and the roles of the military and rape culture within patriarchy. These three mechanisms of oppression work in tandem, each reliant on the other. The military cannot exist without rape culture and patriarchy, just as rape culture relies on the military and patriarchy to export violence all across the globe, and the patriarchy requires the military and rape culture to bolster its very existence.

The military figuratively and actually rapes on a regular basis, whether we’re talking about soldiers invading autonomous regions in order to aid the U.S. government’s plundering of natural resources, or soldiers literally raping indigenous peoples. Then there’s the epidemic of rape within the military, a crime that grew so unmanageable that President Obama signed a 2013 bill that would ostensibly crack down on sexual assaults in the military.

The act of rape is about power and violence—two favorite hobbies of the military, and the patriarchy that relies on the military to invade and conquer in order to acquire even more power in order to fuel future acts of violence.

Sky Raper. It’s sort of beautifully succinct in a really fucked up way.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Why Drone Strikes Harm America

Friday, 21 February 2014 10:31 By L Michael Hager, Truthout | Opinion

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21985-why-drone-strikes-harm-america

The disclosure last week that Obama administration officials are "debating whether to authorize a lethal strike against an American citizen living in Pakistan" makes it more urgent than ever for citizens to ask themselves whether such attacks - in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere - are in America's interest.

Clearly, the drones offer an easy out for military and intelligence agencies. No boots on the ground, no thorny logistic constraints and, if secrecy is maintained, no public outcry. Our Game Boy soldiers can remain safely out of harm's way.

Yet the case against armed drones is overwhelming. Here are three huge reasons why Americans should strongly oppose drone strikes.

  1. They violate international and domestic law. In no way do the drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen qualify for the self-defense exception to non-aggression. Article 51 of the UN Charter, incorporated into US law by Senate ratification in 1945, authorizes military action only when a country is responding to an "armed attack." Further, US drone strikes run afoul several provisions of the international humanitarian law. When the United States openly violates international law, it lowers the standard for other countries. The targeting of Americans denies them of their constitutionally-protected due process. Are we ready to abandon our commitment to the rule of law?

  2. They kill and otherwise harm innocent civilians. Although the Obama administration would have us believe that the "collateral damage" from drones has been minimal, independent observers have documented more than 2,500 killed in Pakistan alone. Moreover, drones that hover over remote communities 24/7 terrorize the villagers, causing fear and mental distress. Imagine how it would be to live under such a constant threat? What would we think about a country that inflicted such undeserved punishment? To put the question another way: Is resorting to terrorist tactics a morally just way to fight terrorism?

  3. They don't work. Only 2 percent of those killed by the drones have been senior members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The short-term successes of the drone strikes (i.e. the taking out a high-profile militant) are far outweighed by the program's long-term liabilities. We know from first-hand reports of drone survivors that the attacks engender a deep hatred of America. At a Senate hearing in April 2013, Farea Al-Muslimi described a drone attack on his village in Yemen. "The drone strikes," he said, "are the face of America to many Yemenis." The September 2012 "Living Under Drones" study by a team from Stanford and New York University law schools concluded that drone attacks help terrorist groups attract new recruits.

When investigative journalists in Pakistan and Yemen report on drone strikes that kill and injure innocent civilians, they risk government retribution. On February 5, 2014, Kareem Khan, a Pakistani known for his vocal opposition to the US drone program, was abducted from his home. Nine days later he was returned with tales of torture and the marks on his body. After investigating a drone strike on a wedding party that killed 12 people in Yemen in December 2013, Baraa Shiban, a local peace activist, received a death threat. Four years earlier, the journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye discovered a US cruise missile strike that killed 41 people. After his arrest, President Obama reportedly intervened personally with Yemeni President Salah to keep him detained. He was released in July 2013 after serving three years in prison. It’s not difficult to suspect CIA or other American sources for the intimidation of local investigators.

That remote killing is bad policy is further evidenced by the invitation it gives other governments to follow America's lead. As Medea Benjamin said in a recent Truthout piece, "Drones are dangerous because they are fueling a new arms race." She reports that "between 10 and 15 nations are working on weaponizing their drones." Who is to say that America might not someday find itself under al-Qaeda drones that were US-inspired?

That the drone program continues under CIA, rather than Department of Defense, control ensures its continued secrecy and official obfuscation regarding attacks and civilian casualties. How can American citizens evaluate and express sound opinions on the expanding use of military drones if they don't know the real impact of the program on the ground? President Obama should remove the CIA's veil and expose the serious harm that drone strikes inflict on America's interests.

Copyright, Truthout.