Monday, July 11, 2011

Targeted killings and "surgical interventions", the automation of death

In June 2011 The Washington Post and  The New York Times amongst other U.S. corporate media outlets reported on the first attack by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles ( drones ) in Somali territory. The episode is the first known attack by the Pentagon in Somalia since the targeted assassination (followed by retrieval of ADN samples from corpses ) of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow and other presumed high-ranked members of the al-Shabab armed group in an helicopter raid by U.S. commandos attached to the Vth  float in 2009 and the first use of a U.S. drone for offensive purposes in that country. Drones had been used previously in the country for surveillance and monitoring, including identification of targets for future attacks, one of them being shot down in October 2009.

As noted by The  Guardian on June 30th 2011 , the attack in Somalia also represents the expansion of the campaign without drivers to a sixth country , U.S. drones are currently active and and operative in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and more recently in Libya. Also last week BBC echoed the intentions of the Obama administration to provide drones to their allies in Africa, namely Uganda and Burundi for their use in Somali territory (where both countries contribute about 9,000 troops to the African Union troops contingent deployed in "peace operations"). According to US defense officials., drones would be deployed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, which control is disputed.

Since January 2009 nearly 2,500 people have been killed in Pakistan as a result of US drones and Islamic militant attacks. The graphics below show how Islamic militant strongholds in the border area close to Afghanistan have been targeted by US drone aircraft, while, at the same time, Islamic militants have carried out attacks across Pakistan. Source BBC

The use of drones as a method of eliminating suspected terrorist threats has increased over the past four years (from 4 instances in 2007 to 53 in 2010), especially in the U.S. campaign on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan with about 253 episodes reported since 2004, final results (in terms of victims) of such operations are difficult to verify but are estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,500 victims, calling into question basic concepts such as national States sovereignty or the summary execution of perceived suspects redefining the military actions of the second millennium. The UN special rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial or arbitrary executions Philip Alston has been criticized on numerous occasions the concept of targeted killings . Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO)  such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International have also expressed concern and condemnation. A good summary of critical voices is to be found  in this  article originally appeared in Counterpunch by Doug Noble, member of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones .

More on the issue
    • Rise of the Drones Peter Yost  PBS January 2013Drones. These unmanned flying robots–some as large as jumbo jets, others as small as birds–do things straight out of science fiction. Much of what it takes to get these robotic airplanes to fly, sense, and kill has remained secret. But now, with rare access to drone engineers and those who fly them for the U.S. military, NOVA reveals the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful as we see how a remotely-piloted drone strike looks and feels from inside the command center. from PBS NOVA  webpage with this interesting disclaimer  ""Rise of the Drones" is produced by WGBH, which maintains complete editorial control over all episodes of NOVA. Lockheed Martin was a minor funder of the NOVA series at the time this program was originally broadcast. Lockheed Martin produces the RQ-170 Sentinel drone technology mentioned in the program"
    • Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes Cora Currier ProPublica January 2013
    • Covert Drone War Tracking CIA drone strikes and other US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.The Bureau of Investigative Journalism Updated info on drone strikes