Did Obama Pressure Pakistan to Stop Reporting on Civilians Killed by Drones?
The more proper question would be ‘Did his administration pressure the state or the officials in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to not designate between ‘civilians’ and ‘combatants’ or ‘militants’?). There is no Smoking Gun, of course, but the circumstantial evidence added to the long history of this President’s many and egregious lies in the ongoing WOT leads me by way of inductive reasoning that it is so. Here is the shortened version of a complicated background on the issue.
The Bureau had begun its ‘Naming the Dead‘ project in February 4, 2013. The journalists at the site decided that tracking down the names of those murdered by drones in Pakistan to add to the list of the dead they already had from Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia was important for a number of reasons, including aiding in further research projects. They encouraged us to share the names far and wide. You can read the names plus excerpts from the ‘Living Under Drones’ report issued in Dec. 2012 by The International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law at this post I wrote in Jan. 2013. There are plenty of damning quotes by John Brennan and others of the Obomba administration, and their love for drone assassinations, terminology, and how they sold the idea to the US public. They chose Pakistan since the majority of drone killings have occurred there.
Part of the Bureau’s impetus was to blow out of the water John Brennan’s claim in June of 2011 that the CIA had not killed ‘a single non-combatant in almost a year’. Also at issue were the terms ‘non-combatant’, ‘civilian’, and ‘militant’ of course, and we know from the ‘signature strike’ protocols that men of a certain age, moving in a certain tactical fashion, were deemed to be ‘militants’ unless they could posthumously proven other wise. A veritable and horrible ‘War on Terra’ Catch-22.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has received the fullest ‘official document’ about ISAF drone strikes and published it today. They had received and published a partial list in July of last year; you can read the additional names here. That document included strikes between 2006 and 2009, included enough information that it was clear that the Pakistani government knew how many civilian deaths had occurred, but had chosen to deny officially.
This week the Bureau published a document recently leaked to them that contains information on 330 additional strikes, including locations and numbers of the dead. From the BureauInvestigates.org (all their work is listed as Creative Commons):
The reports are based on information filed to the FATA Secretariat each evening by local Political Agents – senior officials in the field. These agents gather the information from networks of informants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the area bordering Afghanistan.
Now the Bureau has obtained an updated version of the document, which lists attacks up to late September 2013.
Read the secret document here
The document contains estimates of how many people have been killed in each strike, as well as whether the dead are ‘local’ or ‘non-local’ – a broad category that includes those from elsewhere in Pakistan, as well as foreigners.’ They report on many of the fishy contradictions among other journalistic reports, eyewitness reports, and changing and ‘evolving’ statements by the Ministry of Defense. The new report allows them to compare the ‘official’ versions and those from other sources.
‘Although the document records civilian casualties in the early years, from 2009 these almost disappear. Even well-documented cases of civilian deaths are omitted. These include at least two incidents where the tribal administration is known to have admitted to the families that it knew civilians had died.
Among the civilian deaths that go unmentioned is one of the most high-profile attacks of the past 18 months – an October 2012 attack that killed Mamana Bibi, an elderly woman, as she was in a field. Her grandchildren were nearby, and several were injured by debris.
This refers to the original documents they published in July of 2013:
‘Up to the end of 2008, the document reports where attacks have killed civilians. In this period the document lists 37 drone strikes, as well as four attacks carried out by NATO and Afghan forces – and it notes civilian deaths in 15 of the drone attacks. The document records 353 deaths in this time, of whom at least 138 are specifically described as civilians.’
Now the new report from that time through 2013:
‘The (new) document records a further 294 incidents between January 1 2009 and September 2013, when the version obtained by the Bureau ends. Only seven of these specifically mention civilian victims. Just two use the word ‘civilian’ – the others typically refer to women and children as being among the dead. A further entry states that a child was injured.’
Their own figures disagree, but they note that the new report only differentiates between ‘locals and non-locals’, save for: “… according to the document. In 2011, the file notes that 41 ‘local tribesmen’ were killed – these are included in the civilian count here.”
‘A former senior FATA Secretariat official, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that rather than attempting to establish which of the dead were believed to be civilians, agents instead categorised the dead as ‘local’ or ‘non-local’.
‘It is very difficult to report it whether this man was really a militant or a non-militant. So they found an easy way of saying it: local and non-local,’ he said.
The ‘non-local’ category strongly suggests that an individual is an alleged militant, the former official added. ‘Local means that they belong to that agency [tribal administered district] and you could say in general terms that they are innocent… But it is quite possible that some of them might be terrorists.’
The author allows for the mmmm possibility that rather prosaic explanations might account for the reporting change, quoting FATA officials speculating on changing personnel, and that since drone strikes increased during Bush’s last year in office, and increased dramatically once Obomba entered the Oval Office, officials may have been stretched to thin to record them all, or indeed follow up on ‘missing details’.
After a drone strike in Kapisa Province in Afghanistan that was excused by the ISAF Commander there via the NYT, saying that through binoculars, the kids looked like adults carrying rifles, and were walking in a tactical fashion. Subsequent coverage at the Times included this information about the strike:
‘One of the villagers, who works as a police chief in a nearby district, lost his 12-year-old son, Ajmal, and two nephews, ages 9 and 11. The police officer, Abdul Zahid, described the area as deeply poor with almost no services of any kind.
“We don’t have paved roads, school or a clinic in Gayawa,” he said. “There’s almost one meter snow here in our village and we send our children to take care of the goats and sheep and feed them and collect firewood from the trees nearby and bring it home so we can heat our homes.”
On Feb. 8 when the bombing happened, the children had gone as usual to the grazing area outside the village. They had just finished letting the animals graze and had made a small fire to keep warm when they were bombed, he said.
“Suddenly some airplanes came and dropped bombs on the children and killed my son, my two nephews and some other children from our village,” said Mr. Zahid. “When we went there we saw the children in pieces, some missing legs, some missing arms, only the heads and face could be recognized, nothing else.”
I remember writing about a small group of local men who tried to visit the site of eery reported drone strike in order that they could identify the dead. One had said that often the only way to know if children had been killed was that small rubber flip-flops were present.
Also weighing in on the possibility that deals had been struck between this President’s surrogates and either local politicians or Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or surrogates, assumedly, the Bureau continues:
‘Chris Woods, who started the Bureau’s investigation into drone strikes and who is now writing a book on armed drones, said: ‘One of my sources, a former Pakistani minister, has indicated that local officials may have come under pressure to play down drone civilian deaths following the election of Barack Obama. It’s certainly of concern that almost all mention of non-combatant casualties simply disappears from this document after 2009, despite significant evidence to the contrary.’
‘It’s certainly of concern that almost all mention of non-combatant casualties simply disappears from this document after 2009, despite significant evidence to the contrary.‘
And news has come from the Times saying that the CIA and DoD are all a-scramble about the troop levels that may or may not be left in Afghanistan by the end of the year, depending on whether or not they secure a new SOFA with the nation. Why? The ability to keep drone bases open would be impossible, and monitoring the tactical nuclear arsenal that Pakistan is said to be amassing to defend itself from India. Pepe Escobar said yesterday:
“Curiously, just before SOTU, the US government and the Pentagon leaked to the New York Times that if “a small number” (Obama) of US troops actually remain in Afghanistan, the CIA will continue to drone the tribal areas of Pakistan to oblivion, and will continue to use Afghan bases to spy on Pakistan. So it’s all about the CIA’s dirty wars. Obviously none of the AfPak components want this state of affairs – so it looks like Obama’s heroes will have to beat the hell out of Dodge for good. Good for them, as they will be exchanging lethal IEDs for a new shot at the ultimate land of “opportunity.” Is that a fact? Yes, because POTUS said so.’
He gave no link, but (sigh) we can easily assume that plenty of contract mercenaries working with the CIA will remain. Clearly they know what they are doing as far as continuing the Incessant War on Terror, creating more and more enemies of our Empire every day.
Would that these war criminals be tried, convicted, and imprisoned, and be forced to continuously watch films showing the carnage and suffering they continue to inflict on populations around the globe, as well as the planet itself.
War makes war (h/t mafr):
Also, see David Swanson’s ‘Spring Days of Actions to End Drone Killings’.
(cross-posted at Cafe-Babylon.net)