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Some Pakistanis Resist U.S. Drone Murder

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-- Kareem Khan, in Al Jazeera, February 14, 2014 

Within hours of his release, Khan travelled to Europe in a delegation sponsored by Reprieve, the British human rights charity that has supported Khan's efforts since 2010 as part of its program against abuses in counter-terrorism ("Reprieve investigates extra-judicial killing and detention around the world and reunites 'disappeared' prisoners with their legal rights"). The Reprieve delegation to Europe included, in addition to Kareem Khan:

Noor Behram, 42, is a photo-journalist from North Waziristan who started documenting drone atrocities in 2008. In his experience, he said: "For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant. I don't go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed". The youth in the area surrounding a strike gets crazed. Hatred builds up inside those who have seen a drone attack. The Americans think it is working, but the damage they're doing is far greater." He is president of the Tribal Union of Journalists, the representative body of journalists in the region. 

Shazad Akbar , 50ish, an attorney who represents Kareem Khan, is a human rights lawyer in Islamabad, where he founded and runs the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR). He currently holds a Legal Fellowship from Reprieve. Shahzad qualified as a Barrister from Lincolns Inn and also holds a LLM from University of Newcastle. In November 2010, Shahzad Akbar filed a lawsuit against the CIA on behalf of Kareem Khan for the wrongful deaths of his son and brother. The lawyer later said publicly: "If the US believes in the rule of law, it should not be hindering my advocacy of claims against the CIA for wrongful death and injury."  The U.S. government barred him from the country in May 2011 when he was invited to speak at Columbia University. Shahzad Akbar filed another lawsuit on behalf of drone victims in May 2012, this time demanding that the Pakistani government take action against the U.S. for war crimes, but also bring the issue of drone assassinations before the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice to stop them. The U.S. again barred the lawyer from entering the country, then relented in the face of public outcry, and he spoke at the first international Drone Summit in April 2013 in Washington. The U.S. barred him yet again in the fall, keeping him away when his clients testified before Congress in another case

Jennifer Gibson, 32ish, is a U.S. lawyer based in the UK, a staff attorney who leads Reprieve's work on drones in Pakistan. She has a doctorate in international studies from the University of Cambridge and a law degree from Stanford. While at Stanford, she was part of a research team that visited Pakistan and she is a co-author of "Living Under Drones" -- a 2012 project that reaches devastating conclusions about American aerial murder: (1) "In addition to killing and maiming, the presence of drones exacts a high toll on civilian life in northwest Pakistan;" (2) "Evidence gathered in the report casts doubt on the legality of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan;" (3) "Drone strikes foster anti-American sentiment and undermine the rule of law." Soon after the report's release, Gibson wrote: "Unfortunately, many commentators missed the report's key message: drones are terrorising an entire civilian population". because no one knows who the informants are, people are reluctant to invite neighbours into their homes. The entire community withdraws from the public square, afraid to venture out, but equally afraid to bring the outside in. This is what it means to live under drones. It has turned North Waziristan into the world's largest prison." When the U.S. barred Shahzad Akbar from accompanying his clients before Congress, Jennifer Gibson appeared in his place and told the lawmakers that "every child who loses life or limb persuades dozens more tribes in Pakistan that the United States does not distinguish friend from foe." 

"The CIA killer drones programme is the death penalty without trial, and the new face of state lawlessness in the name of counter-terrorism. Reprieve is assisting victims' families to seek legal accountability for drone attacks, with the goal of exposing the programme to scrutiny and restoring the rule of law."  

-- Reprieve statement on American drones in Pakistan

"America does not take strikes to punish individuals; we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.  And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured -- the highest standard we can set"."

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-- President Obama, May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University 

Obama's use of "near certainty" is about as deceitful as it gets. In the first place, the government has no honest idea of the actual identities of the men, women, and children they've killed beyond 10 per cent or, generously, maybe 30. In the second place, the government refuses to tell the truth about what it does or doesn't know. In the third place, the government defines "militants" as any male of military age, a flexible category that the president may expand to include women and children as exigency demands (as when the U.S. killed American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki who was 16). The critical evidence of a person's guilt is that the U.S. killed that person.   

In other words, every published report of drone strikes killing "militants" is unverifiable and probably false, yet media everywhere report the government version uncritically, with few exceptions. The argument over the number of civilian casualties is ridiculous at its unknowable heart. The number of identified executed civilians can be only a minimum measure of American-inflicted carnage. 

The New America Foundation is a somewhat paranoid, threat-obsessed Washington think tank devoted to "appropriate methods to secure the homeland." Without providing meaningful context, the foundation reports that the number of "jihadist extremists" in the U.S. "has continued to decline from its peak in 2009," which is similar to the trend for icebergs in the South Atlantic. The foundation has gone to great pains to try to rationalize the irrational, creating databases for drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries, citing "the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, the Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, and the Columbia University Law School for their valuable work on this subject." 

For all its manifest bias in favor of a security state with a siege mentality that allows the U.S. to kill anyone for any imagined reason, the foundation does offer a more rational way of assessing the usefulness of America's drone crimes war. Tucked in the middle of its "Key Findings," the foundation states: "Only 58 known militant leaders have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, representing just 2% of the total deaths." [emphasis added] That represents an American moral calculus in which one "known militant leader" (whatever that means) is worth another 49 dead Pakistanis who are not "known" to have been anything but previously alive, whether they were grunts or civilians. 

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"Under the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 particularly Article 199 thereof put this Court under  tremendous obligation to safeguard & protect the life &  property of the citizen of Pakistan and any person for the  time being in Pakistan, being fundamental rights, hence,  this Court is constrained to hold as follows:  

i.   That the drone strikes, carried out in the tribal areas (FATA)  particularly North & South  Waziristan by the CIA & US  Authorities, are blatant violation of  Basic Human Rights and are against  the UN Charter, the UN General  Assembly Resolution, adopted  unanimously, the provision of  Geneva Conventions thus, it is held  to be a War Crime, cognizable by the  International Court of Justice or  Special Tribunal for War Crimes,  constituted or to be constituted by the  UNO for this purpose. 

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Vermonter living in Woodstock: elected to five terms (served 20 years) as side judge (sitting in Superior, Family, and Small Claims Courts); public radio producer, "The Panther Program" -- nationally distributed, three albums (at CD Baby), some (more...)

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