Ignoring the possibility that emergency responders rushing to the aid
of Middle East drone-strike victims may be medical personnel, U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency(CIA) operators have also marked them for death.
The CIA has also been targeting the funeral services of the alleged suspects it
murders, also killing mourners who often may not be suspects but family and/or
friends of the deceased, perhaps including children.
Although President Obama claims the drone strikes in Pakistan have not
caused a "huge number" of civilian casualties, reliable estimates say
the figure has already topped 500, including 60 children. It is a
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tragic fact that secondary strikes raining down on funerals have
killed dozens of mourners.
Denying the wounded on the battlefield aid or targeting them and/or
their rescuers with fresh attacks goes against a policy General George
Washington established during the Revolutionary War. In that struggle
Hessian and British troops were known to follow up their victories by
bayoneting any wounded left alive on the battlefield. When Colonial
troops were tempted to respond in kind, Washington would say, "No, we
will not do it to them."
President Obama's policy authorizing targeting relief workers with
second strikes has all the hallmarks of violating the Geneva
Convention against caring for the battlefield wounded, which, after
all, was the primary reason for the establishment of the International
Plus, the drone strikes at the least have violated the Fourth
Geneva Convention that calls for the protection of civilians. That so
many hundreds of civilian non-combatants have been killed, and
presumably a sizable number wounded, is testimony to the inherently
flawed manner by which the CIA selects targets---targets who, by the
way, are also being denied an opportunity to surrender as well as
their fundamental legal right to trial by jury.
"The Obama administration's use of drone strikes to commit war crimes around the world
is both widespread and systematic," says Francis A. Boyle, University of Illinois professor
of international law and author of "Tackling America's Toughest Questions"(Clarity). "It therefore
qualifies as a Crime against Humanity under the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court."
"Their (Obama Administration's) recent authorization of the widespread deployment of drones
in United States airspace could be a harbinger of their using armed drones to murder U.S. citizens
in America as they now do abroad," he added.
Boyle said further: "According to former University of Chicago Law School Constitutional Law
Professor President Barack Obama's perverted interpretation of the United States Constitution,
there is nothing to prevent them from doing that."
If any policy will inspire anti-American bitterness in the Middle
East, it is liable to be the drone attacks on the funerals of the
suspects. Not allowing for the burial of the dead has been regarded as
an outrage for thousands of years in many cultures.
In "Antigone," the Greek playwright Sophocles describes how that heroine was put to death
for attempting to give her slain warrior brother Polynices a decent
burial. This burial ritual was commonplace when Sophocles wrote about it 2500
years ago and the act of desecrating funerals goes widely against centuries of human custom.
Drones may be designed, as John Sifton writes in the Feb. 27th "The
Nation," to "target individual humans," but their impact is to kill
"with all the distance and alienation of ICBMs." Not only can
drone-launched Hellfire missiles spread a curtain of death over a wide
area, killing many not intended to be put to death, but there is ample
evidence that many of the victims selected for drone attacks do not
even qualify as suspects in the first place and are being slaughtered in error.
Sifton notes the first drone attack in Paktia province
of Afghanistan in February, 2002, was aimed at a suspect the CIA
thought to be a "tall man" who might have been Osama bin Laden.
Instead, those slain, including the tall man, turned out to be three
innocent civilians collecting scrap metal. Not surprisingly, much of
the besieged Afghan population reportedly regard the unmanned drone
attacks as a cowardly and unmanly method of waging war.
"CIA drone strikes have become an almost daily occurrence around the
world, but little is known about who is killed and under what
circumstances," said James Ross, (no relation) legal and policy
director at Human Rights Watch. "So long as the US resists public
accountability for CIA drone strikes, the agency should not be
conducting targeted killings."
In the decade since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Bush and Obama
administrations have engaged in a campaign of "targeted killings" ---
deliberate, lethal attacks aimed at specific individuals under the
color of law, Human Rights Watch says.
Estimates of the number of deaths of alleged al Qaeda
members, other armed group members, and civilians from US targeted
killings range from several hundred to more than two thousand, it adds.
Most of these attacks are believed to have occurred in Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen using unmanned aerial vehicles
armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs.
"The lawfulness of a targeted killing hinges in part on the applicable
international law, which is determined by the context in which the
attack takes place," Human Rights Watch said." The laws of war permit
attacks during situations of armed conflict only against valid
military targets. Attacks causing disproportionate loss of civilian
life or property are prohibited."
During law enforcement situations, international human rights law
permits the use of lethal force only when absolutely necessary to save
human life, Human Rights watch explains. Individuals cannot be targeted
with lethal force merely because of past unlawful behavior, but only for imminent
or other grave threats to life when arrest is not reasonably possible. #
(Author Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based anti-war writer and public relations
consultant for good causes.)