Saturday, December 21, 2013

How many American Weddings would have to get hit by Drones before they were Banned ? Examining US drone death dealing policy in Yemen .....

After Yemen Wedding Strike, US Drone Policy Comes Under New Scrutiny

US Claims More Care in Drone Strikes Not Holding Water

by Jason Ditz, December 20, 2013
The Obama Administration’s claims on its global drone assassination policy have rarely been internally consistent, arguing regularly that the strikes were incredibly accurate and that they were going to exercise more care in the future.
Then a wedding happened in rural Yemen, and US drones were quick with a “signature strike” against the procession, killing at least 12 civilians. Carloads of civilians were destroyed, and so were claims of US “care” in its drone policy.
While the administration has mostly ducked questions on the incident (or flat out lied) and insisted that particular care is still being taken, the incident reflects the extraordinary care not taken.
With the overwhelming majority of drone victims unidentified, the “signature strike” policy that the administration continues to defend, with Congressional support, is on even shakier ground than before, and the administration claims that all the anonymous people they killed must’ve been guilty of something are just not holding water.

Anonymous US Officials Lie About Drone Attack on Wedding Convoy in Yemen

By:  Friday December 20, 2013 5:33 pm

Photo of victims killed in drone strike on wedding convoy from Yemeni journalist & being circulated widely on social media.

At least a dozen people in a wedding convoy were killed in the al-Bayda province of Yemen on December 12 when the United States launched a drone attack. It provoked great outrage, and, in the aftermath, the Yemeni government compensated a local tribe and Yemen’s parliament passed a resolution to ban US drone strikes.

Nothing was said by any US official in the immediate moments after news about the strike began to circulate in Yemen. What unnamed Yemeni officials claimed hours after was that a wedding convoy had beenmistaken for an al Qaeda convoy. But now, over a week later, anonymous US officials decided to tell a reputable news organization the strike targeted “ringleader behind the summer plot that shuttered 19 diplomatic posts across Africa and the Mideast.”

The Associated Press reports:
Two U.S. and one Yemeni official say Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani was the target. He is a mid-level leader in Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. officials say between nine and 12 other militants were killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to describe drone operations publicly.
The Yemeni government paid the local tribe compensation for the loss of life, but Yemen’s official security committee also announced that the airstrike had targeted al-Qaida militants, including those who masterminded attacks on government institutions, the police and army.
U.S. officials say the militants were traveling to the wedding, but were not near civilians when they were hit.
This conflicts with everything that has been reported by journalists covering the strike that took place. It strongly suggests that US officials are lying or attempting to cover up what happened, which would not be surprising since the drone attack was the worst in Yemen’s history.

When the attack occurred, Iona Craig, a freelance journalist in Yemen, reported that a convoy of 11 vehicles had been hit. “Two of the vehicles were destroyed.” Al Qaeda militants were “believed to have been among those killed, but at least a dozen of the dead were civilians.”

A Yemeni government official told Craig, “There was a [militant] target, but something went wrong.”

“A local news website,” according to Craig, “published a list naming the casualties, claiming that all 15 [of the casualties] were civilians. Two tribal sheikhs were believed to be among those killed.”
Craig reacted to the claims by anonymous US officials:

This conflicts with everything I saw and heard from witnesses and survivors including the name of the apparent target 

For Foreign Policy magazine, Adam Baron, a journalist also based in Yemen, wrote:
The initial reports left me incredulous. As I started to make calls to sources in the area, it became clear the strike hit four cars in a convoy of about a dozen vehicles, killing at least a dozen people and wounding many more. The casualties were identified as members of local tribes. The information I received, as usual after such an event, was sometimes contradictory: While some sources stressed that those killed were all civilians, others seemed just as confident that some were indeed militants.
He added this was not a “targeted killing” nor was it “consistent with the White House’s claim that the strikes are only carried out when civilians will not be caught in the crossfire.” The “suspected militants” had been surrounded by “civilian bystanders.” And, he confessed, “It was hard not to wonder if the wedding convoy was mistaken for something more sinister — that someone in the bowels of the US intelligence community concluded that vehicles carrying heavily armed wedding guests were actually an al Qaeda convoy.”

It is just one paragraph, but there are multiple lies in this piece of propaganda fed to the Associated Press.
One, US officials are sure they were all “militants,” a statement that sharply conflicts with what those in the area where the strike took place have said. They are also certain all were “militants,” but the officials do not apparently know exactly how many were killed, which makes statements on who died further perplexing. (Craig reported 15 killed.)

Two, the officials completely deny that any civilians were nearby. The people of Yemen have bodies to show that civilians were killed. Even the Yemeni government does not dispute that civilians were killed. The security committee just excuses what happened by stating “al Qaeda militants” were targeted.

Three, the name of the alleged ringleader of this embassy plot does not include a last name similar to any of the victims reported killed.

In Yemeni news media, these are the names of the dead that were reported:
Hussein Mohammed Saleh Al Amiri, 65
Mohammed Ali Massad Al Amiri, 30
Ali Abdullah Mohammed Al Taysi, 35
Zeidan Mohammed Al Almiri, 40 Z
Saif Abdullah Mabkhout Al Amiri, 20
Motlaq Hamoud Mohammed Al Taysi, 45
Saleh Abdullah Mabkhout, 30
Aaref Mohammed Al Taysi, 30
Saleh Massad Al Amiri, 42
Massad Dayfallah Al Amiri, 25
Shayef Abdullah Mabkhout Al Amiri
Hussein Mohammed Al Tomayl Al Taysi, 20
Salem Mohammed Ali Al Taysi
Those reported wounded were:
Abdullah Mohammed Al Khashal Al Taysi
Mohammed Ali Abdullah Al Amiri
Abdullah Aziz Mabkhout Al Amiri
Nasser Ali Ahmad Al Amiri
Nayef Abdullah Al Khasham Al Taysi
The name of the alleged target of the strike on December 12 is, according to these US officials, Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani. But no member of the al-Badani family was being married that day. And the people killed were either from the -al-Taysi family or the al-Amiri family.

This person may or may not have attended the wedding, but al-Badani certainly was not in either of the vehicles the drone attacked. He would have been riding with members of his family if he was in the convoy and it would appear from the list of people wounded and killed, someone from the Al Amiri family married someone from the Al Taysi family.

In June of this year, reports claimed a drone killed al Qaeda militants. It was later reported a child was killed too.

On September 2, 2012, according to Jack Serle of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a senior al Qaeda leader was reported that a senior al Qaeda leader was killed. That was revised later to twelve civilians killed in a US drone strike.

And Yemenis will never forget four years ago when, in an unforgettable cruise missile attack on al-Majalah, 55 civilian deaths occurred. Fourteen of the deaths were women, including seven who were pregnant, and 21 of the deaths were children.

News media incorrectly reported that the village in al-Majalah hit was an al Qaeda base. The Yemeni government was covering up the fact that the United States was launching missiles in Yemen and had killed dozens of innocent people.

Yemenis know all the people killed in the attack on a wedding convoy were not all “militants.” That lie is for a press and public that need this lie to believe the covert drone war being waged his not responsible for regular occurring atrocities and that terrorism is effectively being fought by these strikes.

Finally, one aspect of the US officials’ claims happens to be positive. The claims put to rest any notion, as suggested in a report by New York Times reporter Robert Worth, that the al-Taysi and al-Amiri families were targeted because they have members “closely associated” with al Qaeda. That is not the cover story being adopted by the Obama administration.


There is more in this story from The New York Times on what allegedly happened in this drone strike on a wedding convoy. Somehow the Times came to the conclusion that it can only be certain six of the 15 killed were innocent civilians.

This is paragraph is a thing of beauty:
American officials will not say what they knew or did not know about the targets of last week’s strike. But in the past, American officials have sometimes appeared to be misinformed about the accidental deaths of Yemeni civilians in drone strikes.
US officials sometimes appear to be misinformed when they report on drone strikes that kill people associated with individuals who appeared to be suspected al Qaeda militants. That’s essentially what you get when the Times covers America’s covert drone war.

How many American Weddings would have to get hit by Drones before they were Banned?

(By Tom Engelhardt) The headline — “Bride and Boom!” — was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half.  Of course, you have to imagine…
(By Tom Engelhardt)
The headline — “Bride and Boom!” — was spectacular, if you think killing people in distant lands is a blast and a half.  Of course, you have to imagine that smirk line in giant black letters with a monstrous exclamation point covering most of the bottom third of the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post.  The reference was to a caravan of vehicles on its way to or from a wedding in Yemen that was eviscerated, evidently by a U.S. drone via one of those “surgical” strikes of which Washington is so proud.  As one report put it, “Scorched vehicles and body parts were left scattered on the road.”
It goes without saying that such a headline could only be applied to assumedly dangerous foreigners — “terror” or “al-Qaeda suspects” — in distant lands whose deaths carry a certain quotient of weirdness and even amusement with them.  Try to imagine the equivalent for the Newtown massacre the day after Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and began killing children and teachers.  Since even the New York Post wouldn’t do such a thing, let’s posit that the Yemen Post did, that playing off the phrase “head of the class,” their headline was: “Dead of the Class!” (with that same giant exclamation point). It would be sacrilege.  The media would descend.  The tastelessness of Arabs would be denounced all the way up to the White House.  You’d hear about the callousness of foreigners for days.
And were a wedding party to be obliterated on a highway anywhere in America on the way to, say, a rehearsal dinner, whatever the cause, it would be a 24/7 tragedy. Our lives would be filled with news of it. Count on that.
But a bunch of Arabs in a country few in the U.S. had ever heard of before we started sending in the drones?  No such luck, so if you’re a Murdoch tabloid, it’s open season, no consequences guaranteed.  As it happens, “Bride and Boom!” isn’t even an original.  It turns out to be a stock Postheadline.  Google it and you’ll find that, since 9/11, the paper has used it at least twice before last week, and never for the good guys: once in 2005, for “the first bomb-making husband and wife,” two Palestinian newlyweds arrested by the Israelis; and once in 2007, for a story about a “bride,” decked out in a “princess-style wedding gown,” with her “groom.” Their car was stopped at a checkpoint in Iraq by our Iraqis, and both of them turned out to be male “terrorists” in a “nutty nuptial party.”  Ba-boom!
As it happened, the article by Andy Soltis accompanying the Post headline last week began quite inaccurately.  “A U.S. drone strike targeting al-Qaeda militants in Yemen,” went the first line, “took out an unlikely target on Thursday — a wedding party heading to the festivities.”
Soltis can, however, be forgiven his ignorance.  In this country, no one bothers to count up wedding parties wiped out by U.S. air power.  If they did, Soltis would have known that the accurate line, given the history of U.S. war-making since December 2001 when the first party of Afghan wedding revelers was wiped out (only two women surviving), would have been: “A U.S. drone… took out a likely target.”
After all, by the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country — six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen.  And in all those years, reporters covering these “incidents” never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously.  Sometimes whole wedding parties were slaughtered, sometimes just the bride or groom’s parties were hit. Estimated total dead from the eight incidents: almost 300 Afghans, Iraqis, and Yemenis.  And keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit.  U.S. air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.
The only thing that made the Yemeni incident unique was the drone.  The previous strikes were reportedly by piloted aircraft.
Non-tabloid papers were far more polite in their headlines and accounts, though they did reflect utter confusion about what had happened in a distant part of distant Yemen.  The wedding caravan of vehicles was going to a wedding — or coming back.  Fifteen were definitively dead.  Or 11.  Or13.  Or 14.  Or 17.  The attacking plane had aimed for al-Qaeda targets and hit the wedding party “by mistake.”  Or al-Qaeda “suspects” had been among the wedding party, though all reports agree that innocent wedding goers died.  Accounts of what happened from Yemeni officials differed, even as that country’s parliamentarians demanded an end to the U.S. drone campaign in their country.  The Obama administration refused to comment.  It was generally reported that this strike, like others before it, had — strangely enough — upset Yemenis and made them more amenable to the propaganda of al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula.
In the end, reports on a wedding slaughter in a distant land are generally relegated to the inside pages of the paper and passing notice on the TV news, an event instantly trumped by almost anything whatsoever — a shooting in a school anywhere in the U.S., snow storms across the Northeast, you name it — and promptly buried and forgotten.
And yet, in a country that tends to value records, this represents record-making material.  After all, what are the odds of knocking off all or parts of eight wedding parties in the space of a little more than a decade (assuming, of course, that the destruction of other wedding parties or the killing of other wedding goers in America’s distant war zones hasn’t gone unreported).  If the Taliban or the Iranians or the North Koreans had piled up such figures — and indeed the Taliban has done wedding damage viaroadside bombs and suicide bombers — we would know just what to think of them.  We would classify them as barbarians, savages, evildoers.
You might imagine that such a traffic jam of death and destruction would at least merit some longer-term attention, thought, analysis, or discussion here.  But with the rarest of exceptions, it’s nowhere to be found, right, left, or center, in Washington or Topeka, in everyday conversation or think-tank speak.  And keep in mind that we’re talking about a country where the slaughter of innocents — in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities, workplaces and movie theaters, parking lots and naval shipyards — is given endless attention, carefully toted up, discussed and debated until “closure” is reached.
And yet no one here even thinks to ask how so many wedding parties in foreign lands could be so repeatedly taken out.  Is the U.S. simply targeting weddings purposely?  Not likely.  Could it reflect the fact that, despite all the discussion of the “surgical precision” of American air power, pilots have remarkably little idea what’s really going on below them or who exactly, in lands where American intelligence must be half-blind, they are aiming at?  That, at least, seems likely.
Or if “they” gather in certain regions, does American intelligence just assume that the crowd must be “enemy” in nature?  (As an American general saidabout a wedding party attacked in Western Iraq, “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?”) Or is it possible that, in our global war zones, a hint that enemy “suspects” might be among a party of celebrants means that the party itself is fair game, that it’s open season no matter who might be in the crowd?
In this same spirit, the U.S. drone campaigns are said to launch what in drone-speak are called “signature strikes” — that is, strikes not against identified individuals, but against “a pre-identified ‘signature’ of behavior that the U.S. links to militant activity.”  In other words, the U.S. launches drone strikes against groups or individuals whose behavior simply fits a “suspect” category: young men of military age carrying weapons, for instance (in areas where carrying a weapon may be the norm no matter who you are).  In a more general sense, however, the obliterated wedding party may be the true signature strike of the post 9/11 era of American war-making, the strike that should, but never will, remind Americans that the war on terror was and remains, for others in distant lands, a war of terror, a fearsome creation to which we are conveniently blind. 
Consider it a record.  For the period since September 11, 2001, we’re number one… in obliterating wedding parties!  In those years, whether we care to know it or not, “till death do us part” has gained a far grimmer meaning. 
Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.
[Note on American air power and wedding parties: TomDispatch has attempted over the years to record and point out the cumulative nature of these “incidents.” Check out, for instance, “The Wedding Crashers,” or a 2012 piece, “It Couldn’t Happen Here, It Does Happen There.” What follows, gathered by TomDispatch’s Erika Eichelberger, are links to the other seven wedding massacres with brief descriptions of what is known: December 29, 2001, Paktia Province, Afghanistan (more than 100 revelers die in a village in Eastern Afghanistan after an attack by B-52 and B-1B bombers); May 17, 2002, Khost Province, Afghanistan (at least 10 Afghans in a wedding celebration die when U.S. helicopters and planes attack a village); July 1, 2002, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan (at least 30, and possibly 40, celebrants die when attacked by a B-52 bomber and an AC-130 helicopter); May 20, 2004, Mukaradeeb, Iraq (at least 42 dead, including “27 members of the [family hosting the wedding ceremony], their wedding guests, and even the band of musicians hired to play at the ceremony” in an attack by American jets); July 6, 2008, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan (at least 47 dead, 39 of them women and children, including the bride, among a party escorting that bride to the groom’s house — from a missile attack by jet aircraft); August 2008, Laghman Province, Afghanistan (16 killed, including 12 members of the family hosting the wedding, in an attack by “American bombers”); June 8, 2012, Logar Province, Afghanistan (18 killed, half of them children, when Taliban fighters take shelter amid a wedding party. This was perhaps the only case among the eight wedding incidents in which the U.S. offered an apology).]