Drone attacks in Afghanistan kill far fewer civilians than believed:
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“Protecting civilians”, “responsibility to protect”:
The story, which is clearly the result of months of reporting and Freedom of Information Act requests, highlights not only the phenomenon of the U.S. military killing civilians, but also how little information about such killings is typically made available to the public.
British troops have killed two Afghan civilians in a car accident in western Kabul and shot dead a third man when local people tried to prevent the soldiers leaving the scene, a spokesman for the Kabul police chief said.
“A British military vehicle killed two women in a road accident and when people tried stop them [leaving], they shot and killed another man,” said Hashmat Stanekzai. A child was also wounded in the shooting.
Liberated by NATO:
The governor of Helmand province said the two men, two women and three children died when the car they were travelling in was hit by NATO fire late Friday.
The ‘responsibility to protect’ fraud:
Most of the victims were believed to be civilians attending a tribal meeting near the regional capital, Miranshah.
Via Spencer Ackerman and Joshua Foust (also see Steve Hynd). It is worth clicking through to this piece of horrible and stupid piece of colonial apologia regarding the village razing by someone called Paula Broadwell, a friend of Thomas Ricks. Foust is particularly scathing:
Look, war is hell. I have no illusions about that. But what is happening right now in Southern Afghanistan is inexcusable. There were rumors of this policy of collective punishment in the Arghandab before (see thisoverwrought Daily Mail story that stops right before the village actually was destroyed for an idea of what is going on), and I’m really struggling to see how such behavior does not violate Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention—that is, how this behavior is not a war crime, especially given the explicit admission that such behavior is merely for the convenience of the soldier and not any grander strategy or purpose.
This sort of abhorrent behavior is not limited to the Arghandab, either. [Paula] Broadwell explicitly states that it has the [David] Petraeus stamp of approval, and Pahjwok has reported U.S. Marines in Helmand province explicitly warning local villagers of collective punishment if insurgents hide out in their settlements. It is probably a safe assumption to say that this is a widespread phenomenon.
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The war crimes of the Obama administration:
The legality of drone strikes in Pakistan and the alleged role of the CIA has been brought into sharp focus after it was reported that Jonathan Banks, the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, was pulled out of Pakistan after his cover was blown by tribesmen from North Waziristan who are taking legal action, blaming him for the deaths of their relatives in drone strikes.
In recent days sources say that the US drone policy in Pakistan has apparently spread from Waziristan to the northwestern Khyber region, where three US drone missiles killed a reported 24 “militants” on Saturday.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions Christof Heyns told Channel 4 News, if these allegations are true, the personnel who operate the deadly drones and their superiors could potentially face prosecution for war crimes, if international humanitarian laws are violated.
Obama, the world’s biggest concern troll, was clearly aware that this is a problem, which is why he had the rules which govern the kangaroo show trials for Guantanamo detainees re-written (proving that he is at least more intelligent than his predecessor):
The Obama Administration delayed and ultimately changed the language in its revision of the military commissions manual because Bush-era language left open the interpretation that CIA drone operators would be considered war criminals, according to the New York Times.
According to that New York Times article, the new rules still leave the CIA open to prosecution in a Pakistani courtroom. Which probably explains this:
The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed.
The hard numbers:
Regarding these 617 fatalities, BʹTselem demanded an MPIU [Military Police Investigation Unit] investigation into the deaths of 288 of them, who were killed in 148 incidents. Ninety‐five of these incidents occurred in the Gaza Strip, accounting for 230 of the deaths. The other 53 incidents took place in the West Bank and resulted in the killing of 58 Palestinians. One hundred and four of the fatalities were minors under age 18, 23 were persons 50 and above, and 52 were women. One hundred of the Palestinians whose deaths B’Tselem demanded to investigate were killed in 2006, 86 in 2007, 93 in 2008, and 9 in 2009.
This seems about right:
The situation in Pakistan appears to have reached a point where a positive feedback loop prompts continued escalation on both sides. The US sees drone attacks as its primary weapon and has stepped up such attacks in the belief that they will create more security for military actions in Afghanistan and disrupt planning of terrorist attacks on the West. Instead, the attacks appear to enrage the surviving targets, recruit more to their ranks and lead to more attacks.
(Via Glenn Greenwald.)
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Ministry of Defence refuses to disclose any details of its investigations into the shooting of innocent Afghan civilians by British troops:
The cases emerged following the publication by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website, of thousands of classified US military field reports. These included accounts of units of the Coldstream Guards and Royal Marines firing on civilians.
In one case, on 21 October 2007, US soldiers in Kabul reported that a gunner on top of an unidentified UK vehicle wounded three civilian interpreters in a private security company vehicle. The notes stated: “Investigation is controlled by the British. We are not able to get the complete story.”
On another occasion, on 12 March 2008, British troops in Helmand province called in an airstrike, which resulted in the deaths of two women and two children, and injured another child.
MoD officials responded to a freedom of information request by the Guardian yesterday by admitting that they possessed information on the civilian casualties, but claimed it would involve too much work to search their electronic archive.