Drones for good?
A Yemeni civilian who lost two innocent relatives to a 2012 covert drone strike has written to President Obama to ask for an apology – in return for which he will drop a court case, due to be heard in Washington DC tomorrow.
Faisal bin ali Jaber lost his brother in law – a preacher who campaigned against Al Qaeda – and his nephew, a local policeman, in an August 29, 2012 strike on the village of Kashamir in Yemen.
Mr Jaber – an environmental engineer – will tomorrow (Tuesday) travel to Washington DC to attend what will be the first ever US appellate court hearing in a case brought by a civilian victim of the covert drone program.
By normalising the use of drones, the US might be planting a seed that people in the Arab world reject: the seed of arbitrariness.
Despite the large criticism directed toward the unabated use of armed drones as a weapon of choice in the “global war against terror”, led by the United States, the recent revelations about the establishment of a US drone base in Tunisia show that their use is expanding.
This information comes after the announcement of the construction of a 100 million drone base in Agadez, in the centre of Niger, indicating an increase of counterterrorist drone operations in north-west Africa. Although governments in the region have publically claimed they are not hosting US bases, there remains little doubt that such bases do exist at least in Niger and Tunisia, signalling an unconstrained and dangerous expansion.
Personnel on military bases in the UK have been involved in choosing targets for a secret US drone campaign which has killed hundreds of civilians in violation of international law, documents obtained by human rights charity Reprieve indicate.
Job adverts and CVs identified from publicly-available sources show that the US Air Force has employed a “MQ-9 REAPER [drone] ISR Mission Intelligence Coordinator” at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire ; while a Private Military Contractor (PMC) has advertised for an “All Source Analyst – Targeting” to work at the same base.
RAF Molesworth is leased to the US, but the UK Government has refused to answer questions on whether it plays a role in the covert drone campaign – which carries out missile strikes outside of warzones with minimal accountability.
In response to reports that the Obama Administration has agreed to pay €1m to the family of an Italian aid worker who was killed in a US drone strike in 2015, Jennifer Gibson, Reprieve staff attorney, said:
“The Lo Porto family’s terrible ordeal shows that the secret drone program is nothing like as accurate as the US Government claims. Yet there are many more civilian victims who have yet to receive a public apology – notably Faisal bin ali Jaber, who lost two innocent relatives to a drone strike in Yemen.
Picture a sensor pixel about the size of a red blood cell. Now envision a million of these pixels—a megapixel’s worth—in an array that covers a thumbnail. Take one more mental trip: dive down onto the surface of the semiconductor hosting all of these pixels and marvel at each pixel’s associated tech-mesh of more than 1,000 integrated transistors, which provide each and every pixel with a tiny reprogrammable brain of its own. That is the vision for DARPA’s new Reconfigurable Imaging (ReImagine) program.
“What we are aiming for,” said Jay Lewis, program manager for ReImagine, “is a single, multi-talented camera sensor that can detect visual scenes as familiar still and video imagers do, but that also can adapt and change their personality and effectively morph into the type of imager that provides the most useful information for a given situation.”
Clinton’s rhetoric on the Muslim world might be friendlier than Trump’s, but her record is much bloodier.
It was impossible not to be moved as Khizr and Ghazala Khan, two Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, stood before the Democratic National Convention and mourned their son Humayan, a U.S. soldier who’d been killed in Iraq.
Humayan, his grieving father recalled, was “the best of America.” Yet if it were up to Donald Trump, Khan said, the slain soldier “never would have been in America.” It was a compelling rebuke to the GOP nominee’s unrepentant calls to banish Muslims and immigrants alike.
The United States’ covert drone war in Yemen – at least 15 years old now – continues. European countries are directly and indirectly involved.
Death surrounds us in Yemen. Since March 2015, airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition have led to the death of more than 800 civilians in 95 incidents, as documented here. But the ongoing civil war is not the only violence we fear. The United States’ covert drone war in Yemen – at least 15 years old now – continues. The most recent strikes took place on 12 June 2016, killing children, women and innocent Yemenis going about their daily lives. It is unaccountable, ineffective, and counterproductive, and Europe is complicit. It needs to stop and the European Union can help.
The US Army is set to drive a convoy of autonomous tractor-trailers along the Interstate 69 highway in Michigan next week, in the first step toward driverless military vehicles.
The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) announced on Thursday that it has teamed up with Michigan Department of Transportation to test vehicles fitted with Car-2-X communication technology on a public highway.
Ahead of an announcement from the White House on civilian casualties from drone strikes, expected as early as tomorrow (Friday July 1st), international human rights organization Reprieve has released a report demonstrating how the Administration’s previous statements on the issue have proved to be false.
From CIA Director John Brennan’s June 2011 assertion that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” to President Obama’s claim that strikes only take place when there is “near certainty” that civilians won’t be killed, the Administration’s statements, both on record and off, have been undermined by Government leaks and independent assessments.
Operation Enduring Freedom ended in 2014, officially the end of the Afghan War against the Taliban. While the US military plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving only 5,500 troops behind, the number of airstrikes has risen dramatically in 2016. But whom are they really hunting for?
According to an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, more than 60% of airstrikes conducted by US forces, more than 200 airstrikes, have been conducted to defend local ground forces fighting the Afghanistan insurgency.
This contradicts the US claims that American forces remain in the country to hunt terrorist groups, such as recently-renewed Al-Qaeda, Daesh and Haqqani Network. Since 2014, fighting the Taliban is officially the problem of Kabul’s security forces.