The One-Sidedness of the American Perspective

Of course, it isn’t terrorism when we do it

Taking a step away from the discussion about drones (only momentarily, I promise!), Yves Smith has an importance piece at naked capitalism concerning the rhetoric used in discussing Cyprus’s recent “bailout” (although Ed Harrison would contend it’s more of a “bail-in“). Smith’s piece – titled Why Does No One Speak of America’s Oligarchs? – examines the double standard that exists in the American perspective of political commentary:

Russia’s oligarchs and “dirty money” are a distinctive national creation. Do you ever hear Carlos Slim or Rupert Murdoch or the Koch Brothers described as oligarchs? To dial the clock back a bit, how about Harold Geneen of ITT, which was widely known to conduct assassinations in Latin America if it couldn’t get its way by less thuggish means?

…there’s been a peculiar sanctimonious reluctance to apply the word oligarch to the members of America’s ruling class. Some of that is that we Americans idolize our rich, and the richer the better. No one looks too hard at the fact many of our billionaires started out with a leg up, parlaying a moderate family fortune (for instance, in the case of Donald Trump) into a bigger one, or having one’s success depend on other forms of family help (Bill Gates’ mother having the connection to an IBM executive that enabled Gates to license MS-DOS to them).

But the fact that some people have advantages and are able to make the most of them, isn’t the reason to pin the “o” word on America’s top wealthy. It’s that, like Simon’s prototypical emerging market magnates, they increasingly dominate our society and are running it strictly for own self interest and devil take the rest of us. And the results on important metrics are worse than in Russia. The Gini coefficient is a widely-used measure of income inequality. The Gini coefficient is worse (higher) for the US than for Russia.

Arguably, Smith leaves out the peculiar tendency of American culture to be incredibly aversive to self-criticism, instead preferring the cheap, cowardly comfort of self-affirmation.

Think about this: is there any (serious) equivalent for the label of “anti-American” for any other country in the world? And this isn’t just a peculiar quirk of a more close-minded segment of the population, it’s something that’s as rampant and pervasive as “U-S-A” and “We’re number 1” chants. The fact that criticisms of American society and/or state can be portrayed as “anti-Americanism” is indicative of just how deeply this aversion to criticism is.

But to tie this back into the discussion of drones, one must consider how this double standard can become particularly pernicious in the context of warfare. Yesterday, I posted a piece from the Associated Press discussing how drone strikes and constant drone surveillance were terrorizing local populations in Afghanistan and forcing families to flee from their homes. Last year, Stanford’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic and NYU’s Global Justice Clinic paired up to release a damning report on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, including testimony from victims of drone strike. One such individual, a student named Sadaullah Wazir, explained how US drone strikes had affected his life:

“Before the drone strikes started, my life was very good. I used to go to school and I used to be quite busy with that, but after the drone strikes, I stopped going to school now. I was happy because I thought I would become a doctor.” Sadaullah recalled, “Two missiles [were] fired at our hujra and three people died. My cousin and I were injured. We didn’t hear the missile at all and then it was there.” He further explained, “[The last thing I remembered was that] we had just broken our fast where we had eaten and just prayed. . . .We were having tea and just eating a bit and then there were missiles. . . . When I gained consciousness, there was a bandage on my eye. I didn’t know what had happened to my eye and I could only see from one.” Sadaullah lost both of his legs and one of his eyes in the attack. He informed us, “Before [the strike], my life was normal and very good because I could go anywhere and do anything. But now I am not able to do that because I have to stay inside. . . . Sometimes I have really bad headaches. . . . [and] if I walk too much [on my prosthetic legs], my legs hurt a lot. [Drones have] drastically affected life [in our area].”

It is important to consider the label of “terrorism” in this context. Does the constant overhead buzzing of drones, and the enduring threat of a Hellfire missile killing one’s family not terrorize people? Is Sadaullah, no longer able to attend school because of his injuries, not a victim of US state-sponsored terrorism? The ostensible objective of these drone strikes is to combat terrorism – but is counterterrorism – at least where drone strikes are concerned – really any different from terrorism itself? Here is an innocent civilian whose live has been forever impacted by the violence of state policies whose sole purported object is to exert political influence on a target population. Is that not the very definition of terrorism?

Obviously, this parsing out of terms can be expanded to include other instances of US state aggression, such as the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The point is not simply to challenge the occurrence of these events, but to question the validity of the language used to describe these things (nation-building, promoting democracy) paired against the reality of body counts, ruined infrastructure, and destroyed communities. Furthermore, it is important to understand how this doublespeak is disseminated by the government and its media apparatus. Who is responsible for inculcating and normalizing the use of these terms, and what is their stake in the matter?

Afghan villagers flee their homes, blame US drones

Associated Press/Anja Niedringhaus - In this Tuesday, March 19, 2013 photo, Afghan men sit among the debris of their destroyed school in the village of Budyali, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Taliban militants attacked the nearby district headquarters in July 2011, then took refuge in the school. The Afghan National Army requested help from coalition forces, who responded with drones, fighter jets and rockets, leaving the school destroyed, according to village elders. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Associated Press/Anja Niedringhaus – In this Tuesday, March 19, 2013 photo, Afghan men sit among the debris of their destroyed school in the village of Budyali, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Taliban militants attacked the nearby district headquarters in July 2011, then took refuge in the school. The Afghan National Army requested help from coalition forces, who responded with drones, fighter jets and rockets, leaving the school destroyed, according to village elders. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

By KATHY GANNON | Associated Press – Thu, Mar 28, 2013

KHALIS FAMILY VILLAGE, Afghanistan (AP) — Barely able to walk even with a cane, Ghulam Rasool says he padlocked his front door, handed over the keys and his three cows to a neighbor and fled his mountain home in the middle of the night to escape relentless airstrikes from U.S. drones targeting militants in this remote corner of Afghanistan.

Rasool and other Afghan villagers have their own name for Predator drones. They call them benghai, which in the Pashto language means the “buzzing of flies.” When they explain the noise, they scrunch their faces and try to make a sound that resembles an army of flies.

“They are evil things that fly so high you don’t see them but all the time you hear them,” said Rasool, whose body is stooped and shrunken with age and his voice barely louder than a whisper. “Night and day we hear this sound and then the bombardment starts.”

The U.S. military is increasingly relying on drone strikes inside Afghanistan, where the number of weapons fired from unmanned aerial aircraft soared from 294 in 2011 to 506 last year. With international combat forces set to withdraw by the end of next year, such attacks are now used more for targeted killings and less for supporting ground troops.

It’s unclear whether Predator drone strikes will continue after 2014 inAfghanistan, where the government has complained bitterly about civilian casualties. The strikes sometimes accidentally kill civilians while forcing others to abandon their hometowns in fear, feeding widespread anti-American sentiment.

The Associated Press — in a rare on-the-ground look unaccompanied by military or security — visited two Afghan villages in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan to talk to residents who reported that they had been affected by drone strikes.

In one village, Afghans disputed NATO’s contention that five men killed in a particular drone strike were militants. In the other, a school that was leveled in a nighttime airstrike targeting Taliban fighters hiding inside has yet to be rebuilt.

“These foreigners started the problem,” Rasool said of international troops. “They have their own country. They should leave.”

From the U.S. perspective, the overall drone program has been a success.

While the Pentagon operates the drones in Afghanistan, the CIA for nearly a decade has used drones to target militants, including Afghans, in Pakistan’s border regions. CIA drones have killed al-Qaida No. 2 Abu Yahya al-Libi and other leading extremists.

Still, criticism of the use of drones for targeted killings around the world has been mounting in recent months. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights has launched an investigation into their effect on civilians.

Rasool said his decision to leave his home in Hisarak district came nearly a month ago after a particularly blistering air assault killed five people in the neighboring village of Meya Saheeb.

The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, confirmed an airstrike on Feb. 24 at Meya Saheeb, but as a matter of policy would neither confirm nor deny that drones were used.

Rasool said that he, his son, half a dozen grandchildren, and two other families crammed into the back of a cart pulled by a tractor. They drove throughout the day until they found a house in Khalis Family Village, named after anti-communist rebel leader Maulvi Yunus Khalis, who had close ties to al-Qaida.

The village is not far from the Tora Bora mountain range where in 2001 the U.S.-led coalition mounted its largest operation of the war to flush out al-Qaida and Taliban warriors.

“Nobody ever comes here. It’s a little dangerous sometimes because of the Taliban,” said Zarullah Khan, a neighbor of Rasool’s.

But the historic significance of his newfound refuge was lost on Rasool.

“Who’s Khalis? We stopped when we found a house for rent,” he said, grumbling at the monthly $200 bill shared among the three families packed into the high-walled compound where he spoke with the AP.

Standing nearby, Rasool’s 12-year-old grandson, Ahmed Shah, recalled the attack in Meya Saheeb. The earth shook for what seemed like hours and the next morning his friends told him there were bodies in the nearby village. A little afraid, but more curious, he walked the short distance to Meya Saheed.

“I wanted to see the dead bodies,” he said. And he did — three bodies, all middle-aged men.

ISAF reported five militants were killed, but Rasool claimed they were businessmen. One of the dead had a carpet shop in the village, he said.

Disputes over the identities of those killed have been a hallmark of the 12-year war.

In Pakistan, an AP investigation last year found that drone strikes were killing fewer civilians than many in that country were led to believe, and that many of the dead were combatants.

In Afghanistan, the U.N. has reported that five drone strikes in 2012 resulted in civilian casualties, with 16 civilians killed and three wounded. It reported just one incident in which civilians were killed the previous year.

At the other end of the province from Meya Saheeb and Khalis Family Village lies the village of Budyali. To get there, one must drive along a long, two-lane highway often booby-trapped by militants, before turning turning off onto a narrow, dusty track and finally cross a rock-strewn riverbed.

A Budyali resident, Hayat Gul, says the sound of “benghai” is commonplace in the village. He says he was wounded nearly two years ago in a Taliban firefight with Afghan security forces at a nearby school that led to an airstrike.

Tucked in the shadow of a hulking mountain crisscrossed with dozens of footpaths, the school now is in ruins.

The early morning strike on the school took place on July 17, 2011, hours after the Taliban attacked the district headquarters and the Afghan National Army appealed to their coalition partners for help.

Gul said he and a second guard, 63-year-old Ghulam Ahad, were asleep in the small cement guard house at one end of the school. They awoke to the sound of gunfire as more than a dozen Taliban militants scaled the school walls around midnight, chased by Afghan soldiers.

A bullet struck Gul in the shoulder. Frightened and unsure of what to do, Ahad stepped outside the guard house and was killed. Bullet holes still riddle the badly damaged building.

Village elders and the school’s principal, Sayed Habib, said coalition forces responded to the army’s request for help with drones, fighter jets and rockets.

The air assault, which residents say began about 3 a.m. and likely included drone strikes, flattened everything across a vast compound that includes the school. Habib said 13 insurgents were killed.

ISAF confirmed that airstrikes killed insurgents in the Budyali area on that day but would not say what type of airstrikes or provide any other details.

Habib and a local malik or elder, Shah Mohammed Khan, said that in the days leading up to the airstrikes the sound of drones could be heard overhead.

“Everyone knows the sound of the unpiloted planes. Even our children know,” Habib said.

The elders were critical of the U.S. attack. They said they would have preferred that the Afghan soldiers try to negotiate with the Taliban to leave the school and surrender.

Habib and the village elders recalled the attack while sitting in the middle of the devastated school, where debris was still scattered across a vast yard. They pointed toward a blackboard, pockmarked with gaping holes.

“Shamefully they destroyed our school, our books, our library,” said Malik Gul Nawaz, an elder with a gray beard and a pot belly.

Habib said that in an attempt to rebuild the school, a contractor constructed a boundary wall before another Taliban attack. He fled with nearly $400,000 in foreign funds.

The roughly 1,300 students now take classes at a makeshift school made up of tents provided by UNICEF. Gul, who was taken to a U.S. military hospital at Bagram Air Base after the attack and treated for the bullet wound to his left shoulder, is now a watchman at the new school.

He held a small photograph of his dead colleague, Ahad, in his trembling left hand.

“We want to end this war,” Gul said. “Enough people have been killed now. We have to find unity.”

___

Kathy Gannon is the AP special regional correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be followed on http://www.twitter.com/kathygannon

April is Anti-Drone Action Month in the US

A mural of the Bread for All Catholic Worker bakery in Rochester, NY, painted at the request of bakery manager Peg Gefell by Sue Shickler, Shawn Dunwoody and Kathy Smith. Photo by Peg Gefell

A mural of the Bread for All Catholic Worker bakery in Rochester, NY, painted at the request of bakery manager Peg Gefell by Sue Shickler, Shawn Dunwoody and Kathy Smith. Photo by Peg Gefell

The Network to Stop Drone Surveillance and Warfare is coordinating a month of anti-drone actions across the US in April [There is a list of actions in different cities and a sign-up sheet available here].

The “April Days of Action” will target numerous components of the infrastructure that facilitate US drone policy – including military bases, universities involved in research related to drone use, and companies who manufacture drones. This groundswell of opposition to drones is not limited to domestic drone surveillance (which i’ve repeatedly pointed out is fundamentally racist), but includes opposition to drone warfare killing people abroad.

I will be closely following these actions and diligently covering them here at The Drone Fallacy.

Gallup Poll Confirms the Obvious: Most Americans are Racists

A Gallup poll released yesterday includes some incredibly interesting insights regarding American attitudes towards the US government’s drone strike policies.

Views on U.S. Government's Use of Drones in Various Situations, March 2013

The survey results suggest that a majority of Americans would agree with previous U.S. drone attacks that have killed suspected terrorists living in other countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. However, the data indicate that less than a majority of Americans would have in principle supported the drone attack in the fall of 2011 against American citizens who were suspected terrorists living in Yemen. And the results show that substantial majorities of Americans are opposed to drone airstrikes “in the U.S.,” regardless of whether they are against U.S. citizens.

So unsurprisingly, Americans don’t want drone strikes to occur where they live and work, where their families reside and where their communities are. Are Pakistani’s somehow exempt from sharing these sentiments? What is it about the American political discourse regarding Muslims and just brown people in general that somehow it never hits home that drone strikes are just as anathema to their families and their communities? (I’ve written before about the issue of racism when it comes to the topic of drones, here and here.)

Notice, too, how support for US drone strike policy drops off as the target becomes more and more “like us.” Hellfire missiles terrorizing and killing Muslims outside of the US? Sure, why not. Hellfire missiles targeting US Citizens though? That’s an issue. And forget about targeting foreign nationals who are suspected terrorists weaving their way through crowds of Americans.

Which brings up another issue – are none of these people remotely concerned with the idea of due process, or even the simplest opposition to arbitrary killing by a state power on the basis of mere suspicions? What does that say about a culture with so readily and regularly celebrates its vaunted ideals and principles as enshrined in documents such as the constitution, which, incidentally, uses the language “no person” and not “no US-Citizen” with regards to who is protected?

Support for Use of Drones, by How Closely Following, March 2013

The last point i want to comment on is this correlation between people who follow news of drones “very/somewhat closely” and their support for it. This is as clear an indictment of the mainstream news establishment as any – the more exposure one has to the part of the state (no longer the fourth estate) that continually and unquestioningly validates government policy through the ostensible lens of objectivity, the more likely one is to support such policies. As I wrote recently regarding the American media culture’s complete omission of NSA whistle-blower William Binney from their discourse, this breeds a kind of mindless irrationality towards issues of serious pertinence – for instance, Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Again, this finding of the Gallup poll speaks volumes of truth to my point about the necessity of a counter-narrative that doesn’t simply render all the victims of US military aggression statistics or “terrorists”.

Bloomberg: Drone Surveillance and The End of Privacy Is Inevitable

The Sci-Fi Romance continues!
Bloomberg was on a radio show this past Friday talking about his views on domestic drone surveillance, most of which is included in the excerpt below

[Drone surveillance] is scary, but what’s the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building? I mean intellectually I have trouble making a distinction. And you know you’re gonna have face recognition software.  People are working on that. It’s just we’re going into a different world, uncharted, and, like it or not, what people can do, what governments can do, is different.  And you can to some extent control, but you can’t keep the tides from coming in. We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy. I don’t see how you stop that. And it’s not a question of whether I think it’s good or bad. I just don’t see how you could stop that because we’re going to have them.

Considering at least 26 states have introduced legislature restricting the use of drones in their airspace, Bloomberg has placed himself somewhat outside the scope of the mainstream discourse on domestic drone use with views that are quite anathema to that particular debate. But is Bloomberg really that far off the mark here? What exactly is the difference between a drone with video recording capabilities and the thousands of cameras littered throughout different parts of NYC?

Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union commented on Bloomberg’s remarks in a CBS report, saying

“It’s disappointing that the mayor shows such disdain for the legitimate concern of New Yorkers about their privacy. None of us expects that we’ll go unseen when we’re out on the street, but we also have the right to expect that the government isn’t making a permanent record.

As I wrote about in this post here, there’s been something of a disconnect in the way the American populace has approached the issue of domestic drone surveillance as compared with their attitudes towards less visible forms of surveillance. Lieberman’s criticisms are a clear indication of this, as just days before Bloomberg made his case, CIA CTO Ira ‘Gus’ Hunt stated at a conference – here in NYC, of all places – that the CIA “fundamentally tries to collect everything and hang on to it forever.” Similarly, the NSA has built it’s new massive storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah precisely to keep permanent records of all the available information out there.

The institutions that are responsible for the truly egregious violations of privacy through indiscriminate data-mining are hardly ever commented on in the mainstream discourse. Fittingly, the NSA whistle-blower William Binney hasn’t got a single mention in either the Times or the WaPo that isn’t tucked away under some other heading or the opinion section. And even then, he shows up exactly once in both publications – in the Times for a review of a documentary about his experiences as a whistle-blower, and in the Post for a long piece detailing the drama of his colleague and fellow whistle-blower Thomas Drake. A search for the terms “william binney NSA” in ProQuest’s National Newspapers Premier database, yields exactly two results – the WaPo piece referenced above and a piece by Jamshid Ghazi Askar for the Deseret News, neither of which explores any of Binney’s struggle as an NSA whistle-blower.

Having adduced such damning evidence of the mainstream media’s highly selective attention favoring the state and its policies, one can only wonder aloud about the validity of this country’s political discourse which is so heavily shaped by the information the general public is privy to. To Bloomberg’s credit, he remarked (rather accurately, in this author’s opinion) that domestic drone surveillance is “something that society needs to think about, and not by writing a quick piece of legislation. These are long-term serious problems,” and it will take something of a self-critical cultural upheaval to address the root causes of these issues.

 

 

Visualizing Every Drone Strike in Pakistan

Pitch Interactive has been getting a lot of attention for producing a visualization of every CIA drone strike in Pakistan since 2004 when they first began. One of the first bits of information presented in this visualization is that less than 2% of the victims of drone strikes have been high-value targets, with the rest of them being women, children, civilians, and “alleged” combatants.

I’ve written before about the importance of having a counter-narrative to the mainstream discourse on drone strikes – one that doesn’t dehumanize the victims or render them a mere statistic. In many ways, that is what the point of this blog is. Pitch Interactive has done a great job of combining modern technology with this counter-narrative to provide a gripping and thought-provoking perspective on drone strikes.

Appeals Court Rules Against CIA Secrecy on Drone Program

On Friday, a federal appeals court rejected the CIA’s glomar response (“neither confirm nor deny”) to Freedom of Information Act requests, filed by the ACLU, concerning the CIA’s drone strike program. In doing so, Judge Merrick B. Garland reversed the district court ruling that had dismissed these FOIA requests and reopened the case for further proceedings. In an official statement from the ACLU, Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer remarked

This is an important victory. It requires the government to retire the absurd claim that the CIA’s interest in the targeted killing program is a secret, and it will make it more difficult for the government to deflect questions about the program’s scope and legal basis. It also means that the CIA will have to explain what records it is withholding, and on what grounds it is withholding them.

The ACLU’s FOIA request in question here sought to “learn when, where, and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how and whether the U.S. ensures compliance with international law restricting extrajudicial killings.”

Garland’s 19-page opinion reminds, “The collapse of the CIA’s Glomar response does not mark the end of this case. FOIA contains exemptions, including particularly Exemptions 1 and 3, that the government argues permit withholding.” In short, while the case is open for further proceedings, it is not guaranteed that the information requested will be divulged.

Despite the Obama administration’s rhetoric about transparency, this case is a clear-cut example of how something as contentious and relevant as the CIA drone-strike program is obfuscated by the veil of state secrecy.

Israel leads the charge in making (and selling) fully automated drones

Times columnist Bill Keller reports in a piece titled Smart Drones

Israel is the first country to make and deploy (and sell, to China, India, South Korea and others) a weapon that can attack pre-emptively without a human in charge. The hovering drone called the Harpy is programmed to recognize and automatically divebomb any radar signal that is not in its database of “friendlies.” No reported misfires so far, but suppose an adversary installs its antiaircraft radar on the roof of a hospital?

Israel is also the world’s second-largest producer of drones, and the largest exporter of drones. Last year, Jefferson Morley at Salon wrote about how Israel’s “drone dominance” is influencing both drone policy and industry here in the US:

Israel’s drone expertise goes back to at least 1970, according to the UAV page of the Israeli Air Force. Mark Daly, an expert on unmanned aircraft at Jane’s Defense in London, notes the Israelis were the first to make widespread use of drones in Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, when the aircraft were used to monitor troop movements.

Now, as the Arab media and Western reporters such as Scott Wilson of the Washington Post have reported, the Israeli Defense Force uses fleets of constantly hovering drones to intimidate and control the Arab population in the Gaza Strip.  (The residents call these drones “zenana,” which both sounds like the aircraft’s distinctive buzz and is Arabic slang for a nagging wife.) The IDF regularly uses drones for targeted assassinations of suspected militants, saying the drones enable them to use “precision strikes” to avoid hurting civilians. Yet as Human Rights Watch has documented, the drone strikes during the Gaza War killed scores of children who were nowhere near armed combatants.

As for domestic drone uses, the Israeli example is perhaps most instructive at the U.S. border. The 5 million Palestinian Arabs living in and around Israel, like the 11 undocumented resident aliens in the United States, are ineligible for citizenship in the land they call home. Both groups are subject to monitoring, barriers to entry and rapid expulsion. Not surprisingly one of the first uses of drones by the Department of Homeland Security was to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border, where it now flies Israeli-made Hermes 450 drones.

Keller’s piece quotes Professor Ronald Arkin, director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Georgia Tech, who argues that such automation could “make war more humane. Robots may lack compassion, but they also lack the emotions that lead to calamitous mistakes, atrocities and genocides: vengefulness, panic, tribal animosity.” Ironically, Israel is perhaps the one state that could reap the most benefits from such a development.

Ben Emmerson: Drone strikes in Pakistan carried out without Pakistani consent

We have received the first bit of news from UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson since he first announced his investigation of 25 specific drone strikes. Emmerson just returned from a three-day visit to Islamabad, Pakistan, where he was given assurances that there is no “tacit consent by Pakistan to the use of drones on its territory.” The Guardian reports

His comments on Friday are a direct response to widespread suspicions that some parts of Pakistan’s military or intelligence organisations have been providing clandestine authorisation to Washington for attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on Taliban or al-Qaida suspects in provinces on the Afghan border.

Emmerson said he had been told that “a thorough search of Pakistani government records had revealed no indication of such consent having been given”.

Firstly, there are not only suspicions that some parts of Pakistan’s military or intelligence apparatuses are giving secret authorization to US for drone strikes. It has been confirmed by at least one Wikileak cable, in which Pakistani General and Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani asked US Admiral William J. Fallon (formerly Commander at USCENTCOM) for “continuous Predator [drone] coverage” of a “conflict area” in Waziristan. If anyone with internet connection can find this cable, why can’t the Pakistani officials who told Emmerson about the search find it in their internal records?

Secondly, Emmerson’s statement reports that “since mid-2010 (and to date) [Pakistan’s foreign affairs ministry] has regularly sent ‘notes verbales’ to the US embassy in Islamabad protesting the use of drones on the territory of Pakistan.” That implies a six-year lapse between the first US drone strike to take place in Pakistan (June 2004) and the foreign affairs ministry in Pakistan deciding to protest such actions to the US embassy there. What are the implications of this six-year period of silence, and does that silence not hint at some sort of tacit authorization?

Emmerson is also not the first person to make the claim that the Pakistani government does not consent to the CIA drone strike program in the former’s territory. As I wrote about here just a month ago

… Sherry Rehman, the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, declared the CIA drone program in Pakistan a “red line,” insisting that “Pakistan does not privately okay drone strikes inside Pakistan.” Rehman was quoted as saying “I can assure you there is no quiet complicity in this, there is no question of a wink and a nod…”

Rehman noted that as of the declaration, the members of army and the civilian government were “all on the same page” with regards to their attitude towards US drone strikes in Pakistan. Is that hinting at some sort of divergence in their respective opinions prior to that moment, as indicated in the cable quoted above?

Emmerson’s statement condemns the US drone strikes in Pakistan as being a violation of their national sovereignty, given that the latter has not consented to such actions, and thus the US is in violation of the UN Charter. Even if we were to narrow the scope of discussion to the Obama administration alone, it is unclear whether or not an argument rooted in the legal framework of international law is enough to sway the US to reconsider its actions. The twisted logic of the whole program, as represented in documents like the Department of Justice White Paper that was leaked to NBC News several weeks ago, doesn’t seem to evince much regard for international law on a whole. The many perversions which are required to make the Obama administration’s actions seem justifiable within the context of international law aren’t necessarily a sign that the administration values international law and wants to seem to conform to it – rather, the highly-flawed arguments presented by the Obama administration seem more a way for it to justify its actions to Americans, who might otherwise find ways to poke holes in those arguments through the many avenues provided by commentators such as myself.

However, given that the drone strike program is justified on the basis of necessity – i.e. we need to take out these would-be terrorists to prevent a threat against the “homeland” – Emmerson’s statement offers one unambiguous and incredibly logical reason for ending the US drone strike program (not just in Pakistan, but all over the Middle East): “Pakistan has also been quite clear that it considers the drone campaign to be counter-productive and to be radicalising a whole new generation, and thereby perpetuating the problem of terrorism in the region.

Furthermore, individuals who may have simply posed a threat to the Pakistani state before may now be incensed to take up arms against the US given it’s responsibility for decimating whole Pashtun communities, and maiming and murdering scores of people. As I have discussed here and here, it is absolute insanity for the US government and its electorate to ignore the fact that bombing and killing people abroad is going to engender more hostility towards the US – and quite possibly, convince more people to take up arms against the imperial aggressor.