UK Attorney General Jeremy Wright’s speech at the IISS on Wednesday evening, “The modern law of self-defence“, trailed by advanced PR as “setting out the legal basis for British military strikes against terror targets overseas”, gained a flurry of advance media coverage. I’m sure others far more qualified will comment in detail on the legal content of the speech. However, as it undoubtedly relates to the operation of the UK’s drone fleet, it’s important to look at what the speech reveals.
At the first stage of what is likely to be a lengthy appeals process, the Information Commissioner has upheld the Ministry of Defence’s refusal to reveal to Drone Wars UK the number of Britain’s armed drones currently deployed.
Despite the fact that the MoD are happy to give such details about other surveillance and attack aircraft taking part in operations against ISIS, the MoD insists that the number of drones deployed nor their location can be released for reasons of operational security.
“Arms sales above flesh and blood, terror, heartbreak and humanity, every time”
These words of journalist Felicity Arbuthnot reverberated as the writer belatedly discovered Josie Ensor’s report from Istanbul that a US air strike killed nearly 60 civilians, including children, in Syria after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters. Some eight families were hit as they tried to flee in one of the single deadliest strikes on civilians by the alliance since the start of its operations in the war-torn country.
The New York Times (8/7/16) reveals the corporate influence behind some of its most-used sources.
A recent New York Times article (8/7/16) detailed, in often scathing terms, what many media critics already knew: that think tanks are frequently not objective, neutral arbiters of information, but corporate- and government-funded agenda-promoters with an academic veneer to give the appearance of impartiality.
NYT Contributor Has Multiple Motives for Denying Drone Crimes
New York Times illustration (by Mike McQuade) depicts drone strikes literally as pinpoint attacks.
Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA, began his New York Times op-ed (2/21/16) with 24 paragraphs of dialogue illustrating how carefully the US government chooses drone targets so as not to put the innocent at risk:
The decision maker asks if there are civilians nearby.
“The family is in the main building. The guys we want are in the big guesthouse here.”
“They’re not very far apart.”
He asks the probability of killing the targets if they use a GBU-12, a powerful 500-pound, laser-guided bomb.
“These guys are sure dead,” comes the reply. “We think the family’s OK.”
“You think they’re OK?”
“They should be.” But the analyst confesses it is impossible to be sure.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporationand other media sites recently republished the report by Lolita Baldor (Associated Press) about the Pentagon plans to increase drone flights by 50% – increasing numbers of combat air patrols to 90 a day. Reasons given:
Thanks to a Moseley reader for sending this link to a May 11th article:
British aircraft and unmanned drones have attacked Islamic State targets in Iraq with more than 200 bombs and missiles in military operations that have been largely ignored, a Guardian analysis has shown. The air strikes, which began in the autumn, have been undertaken by the RAF’s oldest bombers – Tornado GR4s and its newest weapon – the remotely piloted Reaper. – The Guardian, 11 May 2015
Less than one month after killing more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza, including over 500 children, Israel is hosting its annual drone conference.
Organized in partnership with the US embassy in Tel Aviv, “Israel Unmanned Systems 2014” offers Israeli military firms an opportunity to flaunt the performance of their products, many of which were tested on Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip this summer. Continue reading this...
Human rights lawyers Reprieve, acting on behalf of two Yemeni men whose relatives were accidentally killed by drones, have brought a complaint against BT, filed with the British government on 19 August.
On April 15, 2014, when the story broke on the world that the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert program of assassination by remotely controlled drones is not distinct from the drone program of the U.S. Air Force as we had been told, I was on the “Sacred Peace Walk,” an event sponsored each spring by the Nevada Desert Experience, a 70 mile trek from Las Vegas to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site. Creech Air Force Base is along the way and we had already made plans for a protest there the next morning. While the CIA’s drone program is shrouded in secrecy, the Air Force supposedly has been using drones strictly as a weapon for waging war against combatants in recognized areas of conflict such as Afghanistan and formerly in Iraq, under a chain of command that is accountable to elected officials. Some who condemn the CIA’s assassinations by drones as illegal give a pass to or even laud the Air Force use of drones as a more restrained way to fight war.
The comments were made during a debate at Johns Hopkins University, after Georgetown University Law Center professor David Cole detailed the kind of information the government can obtain simply by collecting metadata – who you call, when you call them, how long the call lasts, and how often calls between the two parties are made.