US shows no remorse for drone attacks

Updated: 2013-08-20 07:53

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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US shows no remorse for drone attacks

On Tuesday, Medea Benjamin led a dozen protesters outside the Walter E. Convention Center in Washington D. C. against the United States' use of drones. Inside, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, including manufacturers who made the drones, was meeting with participants from all over the world.

The co-founder of Code Pink, a grassroots peace and social justice movement, was protesting at the Obama administration's excessive use of armed drones and the infamous Guantanamo detention center.

It was Medea Benjamin who barracked Barack Obama when the US president made a counterterrorism speech at the National Defense University in Washington in late May.

When I asked the 61-year-old veteran political activist why there seems to be so few Americans rallying behind her, Medea said it is because Americans have been living in fear for the past 10 years, and they have been duped into believing that these drone strikes were very precise.

That is clearly not the case. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks drone attacks, about 411 to 890 civilians, including 168 to 197 children, were among the 2,548 to 3,549 deaths in 370 drone attacks in Pakistan as of July 2013. In addition, 1,177 to 1,480 people were injured.

The Obama administration has authorized 318 drone attacks in Pakistan, 52 were authorized under George W. Bush's 8-year presidency.

"Drones fly, children die" was one of the banners I remember seeing on TV amid angry Pakistani protesters against the US drones.

After leading an investigation by a UN team, in March, Ben Emmerson, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, called the drone attacks a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. Earlier he said he would present a report to the UN General Assembly in October after investigating drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

The US has not declared war on any of these countries that are targets of its drone strikes.

On Tuesday in Islamabad, Pakistan, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned armed drone attacks. He said the use of armed drones, like any other weapons, should be subject to the long-standing rules of international laws.

The drastic escalation of drone attacks by Obama has also been criticized by some US lawmakers for waging and expanding war without going through the US Congress.

Obama indicated there would be a shift in his administration's drone policy back in May when he was interrupted by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, but there is nothing to suggest that a shift has happened.

On the contrary, reports show that the US conducted nine drone strikes in the impoverished Arab state of Yemen in the two weeks before last Saturday, which killed a total of 37 suspected militants. Some argued that the so-called militants or combatants actually include all males in a particular area.

Just as there was toward the Iraq War in 2004, there are a higher percentage of people opposing the drone strikes outside the US than inside.

A Pew Center survey released late last month revealed that the vast majority of people outside the US oppose the drone strikes while 61 percent in the US supported.

This is because of huge propaganda efforts of the US government, the military, the CIA, the big corporations that manufactured killer drones and the lobbyists for all of the above. The mainstream US media is not shy about showing gruesome images, except when they are of innocent civilians killed by US drones.

Medea Benjamin certainly has more supporters globally than inside the US. The UN General Assembly can prove that in October in its vote on US drone strikes.

The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA.

(China Daily USA 08/20/2013 page11)