31 May 2014
Not a 'bug splat:' Artists give drone victims a face in Pakistan
Islamabad (CNN) -- In a lush field outside Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar, the face of a little girl stares up at the clouds, her eyes searching for the whirring machines that destroyed her family.
Her face -- a picture of innocence -- adorns a giant poster that has been printed out by a group of artist-activists in Pakistan as part of a project, known as #NotABugSplat, to humanize victims of the controversial U.S. drone program in Pakistan's restive tribal region.
According to one artist, who identified himself as R, the project is a reaction to the dehumanizing nature of drone warfare, where operators preside over deadly missile attacks from thousands of miles away, coining terms such as "bug splat" to describe victims of these strikes because "viewing the (dead) body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed."
"We want to shame drone operators and make them realize the human cost of their actions," said R.
Civilian Drone Deaths Triple in Afghanistan, UN Agency Finds
Civilian drone deaths in Afghanistan tripled last year, according to a report by a UN agency. Forty-five civilians died in drone strikes in 2013.
The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), found that drone strikes accounted for at least a third of all civilian deaths in air strikes last year. Unama notes that it is sometimes difficult to establish which type of aircraft carried out a strike, so the true total could be higher.
The UK and US are the only countries to operate armed drones in the conflict. A December 2012 report by the Bureau found that the two forces had carried out over 1,000 drone strikes in the country in the previous five years. British drones have carried out over a fifth of all these strikes, despite having a much smaller fleet.
Bill Perry and I cross canes.
Here's some positive news that was also announced at the event:
Afghan Drone War in Steep Decline
BY Dan Lamothe MARCH 28, 2014 - 03:40 PM
A March 6 airstrike in Afghanistan killed at least five Afghan soldiers and wounded eight more - an egregious accident that prompted the U.S.-led military coalition to launch an ongoing investigation into what occurred. Afghan officials allege the attack was carried out by a drone, long the Obama administration's weapon of choice, while the U.S. says it involved a manned aircraft. Either way, the strike highlights an important -- and surprising -- shift: Both the amount of time drones spend over Afghanistan and the number of total coalition airstrikes are in steep decline, and that trend is likely to accelerate as the U.S. withdraws most of its remaining troops in the months ahead.
Bob Smith of the Brandywine Peace Community announced that the Drone Command Center wouldn't be on-line until mid-2015 at the earliest.
The Dangerous Seduction of Drones
Senior Obama administration officials say our government is sharply scaling back its drone strikes in Pakistan. That's a step in the right direction. It would be even better if the entire U.S. program of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia were scrapped.
By embracing drones as a primary foreign policy tool, President Barack Obama has taken on the role of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.
Without declaring a war there, U.S. forces have hit Pakistan with more than 350 drone strikes since 2004. These U.S.-engineered operations have left a death toll of somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 people, including almost 200 children.
Despite being billed as a weapon of precision, only 2 percent of those killed in these drone strikes have been high-level Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives. Most have been either innocent people or low-level militants.
Simply put, our drones have killed young men with scant ability -- or intent -- to attack Americans. And drones don't just kill people, they terrorize entire communities with their constant buzzing and hovering overhead.
Robert Moore, the Executive Director of Coalition for Peace Action, delivers a stemwinder of a speech on the immorality of drone warfare.
Blue Sky Days
Nine months after Congress delivered its mandate to the FAA, a strike in northeast Pakistan — one of more than 300 ordered in the country since Obama took office — killed a sixty-seven-year-old woman picking okra outside her house. At a briefing held last year on Capitol Hill, the woman’s thirteen-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of five lawmakers. “I no longer love blue skies,” said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray.”
Chorus sings "We Shall Overcome."
A Bipartisan Amendment
Requires the Director of National Intelligence to prepare an annual report on the total number of civilian and combatant casualties caused by the use of targeted lethal force through the use of remotely piloted aircraft outside of Afghanistan. Requires the report to include definitions of terms and makes reporting retroactive to 2008.
This was an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. The amendment was not brought up for a vote.
Victims of US Drones Launch Organization in Yemen to Investigate Strikes, Call Attention to Civilian Impact
Mohammad al-Qawli is an advisor to the Ministry of Education in Yemen. His brother, who was a primary school teacher, was killed in a drone strike by the United States in January 2013. The Yemeni government later confirmed that his brother did not have any ties to any militants. And now, over a year after his brother’s death, he has founded an organization to commemorate civilians killed by US drones and help assist communities impacted by drones.
The organization is called the National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV). According to a press statement from the human rights organization, Reprieve, al-Qawli declared at the launch that he hoped this organization would push the world to “sit up and listen to the voice of the Yemeni people.”