Saturday, June 30, 2012

Obama Killer Drones Scored by UN Official

Obama has now been condemned as a war criminal by the UN and by former President Jimmy Carter (backed by other former Democratic Party leaders), among others. The following article is in the current issue of EIR. For the op-ed by Jimmy Carter published in the NY Times, see:
Mike Billington

Hits ‘Kill, Not Capture’ Policy ---

Obama Killer Drones Scored by UN Official
by Carl Osgood
June 25—Anyone who still doubts the Nazi-like character
of the Obama Administration needs to examine,
closely, how the U.S. killer-drone program operates in
Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and other places. The Administration,
using the CIA and the military’s Joint Special
Operations Command, carries out targeted killings
in countries with which it is not officially at war, using
Reaper and predator drone aircraft, without any sort of
accountability or oversight or even any explanation of
the legal basis for this campaign.
Among its victims have been at least three American
citizens, killed in Yemen, whom the Administration
claimed were terrorist facilitators, without ever providing
evidence of its claims, never mind any due process
for the victims. The White House has refused to officially
acknowledge the program, despite Congressional
inquiries and Freedom of Information Act lawsuits.
However, leaks known to have come from the White
House bragged about how the perverse President takes
personal responsibility for choosing targets and directing
Lyndon LaRouche minced no words in describing
what the drone program is on June 23. “You know,
when the people in the United States know they have a
Hitler running the U.S. government, which is what they
have—this drone business and similar processes, done
personally by the dictator, der Führer—that is a big
issue! That any one of you, anyone out there, can suddenly
disappear—then it reminds me of a case in Germany,
where the town, which was a quiet town, and
there’s a big smokestack in a wooded area around that
town, and occasionally great billows of smoke were
coming out of that smokestack. And life went on otherwise.
And millions of people were killed, in the course
of that, and the warfare, just because people didn’t
notice what the smokestacks had meant, back then.
“And that’s the same thing that’s going on in the
United States, under der Führer, now! And people who
are less old than I am—there’s only a million or fewer
other people still around doing things—but we remember;
and other people get the smell, which tells them
what we remember.”
Obama Violates Human Rights
This brutal, targeted killing by the Obama Administration,
with little regard for civilian casualties, has
damaged the United States in more ways than one. Not
only has the policy backfired in places like Pakistan and
Yemen, where the killings have turned the local populations
against the U.S., and increased sympathy for the
enemies we’re supposed to be fighting, but it has also
damaged our credibility in international fora. How can
the U.S. claim to be concerned about human rights violations
when it ignores human rights principles in its
operations in other countries?
By former President Jimmy Carter’s count, as published
in an op-ed in the June 24 New York Times, the
Obama Administration’s counter-terrorism policy violates
at least 10 of the 30 articles of the 1948 Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, including the one against
“cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The killer-drone campaign has been the target of investigation
by the UN Human Rights Council for some
years, and the subject of a report, released last week by
Christof Heyns, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial
Killings, Summary and Arbitrary Executions.
Heyns’ report noted that his predecessor had raised
concerns about the program in 2008, but that the U.S.
has done nothing to bring about improved transparency
and accountability of the program since that time.
Heyns said that the program not only threatens 60
years of international law, but that some attacks may
even constitute war crimes. “Are we to accept major
changes to the international legal system which has
been in existence since World War II and survived nuclear
threats?” he asked. Some states, he said, “find targeted
killings immensely attractive. Others may do so
in the future. Current targeting practices weaken the
rule of law. Killings may be lawful in an armed conflict
[such as in Afghanistan], but many targeted killings
take place far from areas recognized as being an armed
conflict.” He added that there have been reports of secondary
drone strikes on rescuers helping the injured
from the first drone strike, and if these reports are true,
“those further attacks are a war crime.”
Heyns has put the questions of accountability and
transparency to the Obama Administration’s representatives,
but is not satisfied with the response. “I don’t
think we have a full answer to the legal framework and
we certainly don’t have the answer to the accountability
issues,” he told reporters on June 20. “How are these
decisions taken?” he asked. “Also the effect on citizens,
civilians, how are these decisions taken in the first place
and the numbers that are involved and also the effect in
terms of accountability when civilians are also killed?
The standards, also if one looks at the recent newspaper
reports that came out, how are the direct participants in
hostilities, how are they identified, the legitimate targets
as opposed to the civilians? Is it simply everybody
who’s around someone who’s considered to be a legitimate
target—those things are very worrying and certainly
those are things that I will follow up on.”
The U.S. response to Heyns’ report was to say that
most of the issues of concern are outside the purview of
the Human Rights Council, and besides, the rationale
and legal basis for the program has already been articulated,
in public speeches by Deputy National Security
Advisor John O. Brennan at Harvard Law School on
Sept. 16, 2011, and at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars on April 30, 2012 (Brennan simply claimed
that the use of drones passed every legal and "ethical" hurdle
and called their use "wise" because no US lives are endangered);
by Attorney General Eric Holder at Northwestern University
School of Law on March 5, 2012 (Holder said that the "due
process" required by the US Constitution did not mean "judicial"
process - it is adequate that the President approves); and by
Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson at Yale Law
School on February 22, 2012 (Johnson said that the entire world
is now our battlefield, and therefore any use of deadly force,
anywhere, is legal).
Heyns ridiculed the U.S. argument that the drone killings
are a legitimate response to 9/11. “It’s difficult to see
how any killings carried out in 2012 can be justified as in
response to events in 2001,” he said. “Some states seem
to want to invent new laws to justify new practices.”
Obama Sets Killer Precedent
The Human Rights Council session opened on June
19 with Heyns presenting his written report, which followed
up from the report of his predecessor in 2008,
which had taken notice of the lack of a legal framework
for drone killings and the lack of transparency into the
policy behind them. “The Special Rapporteur reiterates
his predecessor’s recommendation that the [U.S.] Government
specify bases for decisions to kill rather than
capture ‘human targets’ and whether the State in which
the killing takes place has given consent,” Heyns wrote
(emphasis added).
“It should also specify procedural safeguards in
place to ensure in advance that targeted killings comply
with international law, as well as the measures taken
after such killing to ensure that its legal and factual
analysis is accurate.” Heyns concludes that he “is seriously
concerned that the practice of targeted killing
could set a dangerous precedent, in that any government
could, under the cover of counter-terrorism imperatives,
decide to target and kill an individual on the
territory of any state if it considers that said individual
constitutes a threat.”
The figures Heyns reported were astounding.
Citing the Pakistan Human Rights Commission,
Heyns said U.S. drone strikes killed at least 957 people
in Pakistan in 2010 alone. Thousands have been killed
in 300 drone strikes there since 2004, 20% of whom are
believed to be civilians.
“Although figures vary widely with regard to drone
attack estimates, all studies concur on one important
point: there has been a dramatic increase in their use
over the past three years. While these attacks are directed
at individuals believed to be leaders or active
members of al Qaeda or the Taliban, in the context of
armed conflict, in other instances, civilians have allegedly
also perished in the attacks in regions where it is
unclear whether there was an armed conflict or not,”
Heyns said. Human rights law requires that every effort
be made to arrest a suspect, in line with the “principles
of necessity and proportionality on the use of force.”
There had been no official or satisfactory response to
demands issued by Heyns’ predecessor, Heyns wrote.
Heyns’ predecessor, New York University law professor
Philip Alston, was also sharply critical of the
U.S. killer drone program. In a September 2011 report
after he left the UN, Alston wrote that the use of targeted
killings by the Obama Administration “represents
a fundamental regression in the evolution of both international
law and United States domestic law.” Until
9/11, the trend on both international law and U.S. law
had been away from targeted killings and assassinations,
a trend reversed by the George W. Bush Administration
and, even more aggressively, by the Obama Administration.
The complete lack of transparency and
accountability of the program, Alston concluded,
“means that the United States cannot possibly satisfy its
obligations under international law for its use of lethal
force” thereby undermining international law and setting
precedents “which will inevitably come back to
haunt the United States before long, when invoked by
other states with highly problematic agendas.
‘The Public Does Not Have a Right To Know’
Not only did the Obama Administration representatives
in Geneva refuse to provide satisfactory answers
to Heyns’ questions, but back home, the Administration
made clear that it has no intention of clarifying the legal
basis for the killer-drone program, nor releasing any
other pertinent information to the American public regarding
the program. In response to an ACLU/New
York Times lawsuit, government lawyers told a Federal
judge in New York on June 21 that: “Whether or not the
CIA has the authority to be, or is in fact, directly involved
in targeted lethal operations remains classified.”
Furthermore, “Even to describe the numbers and details
of most of these documents [that the suit seeks] would
reveal information that could damage the governments
counter-terrorism efforts.”
ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer ridiculed
the government’s argument, noting that the drone program
is an open secret and that the Administration has
boasted about it to reporters. “The public is entitled to
know more about the legal authority the administration
is claiming and the war the administration is using it
for,” Jaffer said in a statement. The ACLU is calling on
Obama to reveal more information “about the process
by which individuals, including American citizens, are
added to government kill lists.”

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