Desmond Tutu condemns drones
Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, wrote a letter to the editor to the New York Times about the usage of drones. The letter appears below.
"I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in 'A Court to Vet Kill Lists' (news analysis, front page, Feb. 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.
Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.
I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity."
Memo reveals case for drone strikes against AmericansA recently discovered confidential memo from the U.S. Justice Department shows that the government is able to order the killing of American citizens.
The memo said Americans can be killed if they are thought to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaida, even if they are not participating in any plots against America.
The memo says: “The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future."
“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans. “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”
Ellison writes about dronesCongressman Keith Ellison recently wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post about the use of drones. In that piece, he calls for Congress to come up with a new policy on drones.
"An unmanned U.S. aerial vehicle -- or drone -- reportedly killed eight people in rural Pakistan last week, bringing the estimated death toll from drone strikes in Pakistan this year to 35. As the frequency of drone strikes spikes again, some questions must be asked: How man of those targeted were terrorists? Were any children harmed? And what is the standard of evidence to carry out these attacks? The United States has to provide answers, and Congress has a critical role to play."
"It is Congress's responsibility to exercise oversight and craft policies that govern the use of lethal force. But lawmakers have yet to hold a single hearing examining U.S. drone policy. Any rules must provide adequate transparency, respect the rule of law, conform with international standards and prudently advance U.S. national security over the long term."
More criticism of John Brennan, Obama's pick for CIA directorMary Ellen O'Connell, a research professor at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at Notre Dame, wrote an opinion piece for CNN on John Brennan, nominated by President Obama as the next CIA director.
Brennan is known for his connections to "enhanced interrogation techniques" under the Bush administration and as the architect of the drone program, which uses "targeted killing" in the so-called War on Terror.
"Brennan has been a champion and defender of attacks by C.I.A drones that have killed thousands of people, including hundreds of children, far from any battlefield. These killings have occurred in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has recently said the killing is likely to expand to Libya, Mali and Nigeria.
Panetta, Brennan and others in the Obama administration defended these lawless killings the same way the Bush administration justified the unlawful treatment of detainees. Officials in both administrations have sought to win public support and overcome opposition by repeatedly asserting that what they are doing is effective and lawful. The tactical parallels are striking."
U.S. drone tactic falls under war crimeAn NYU student has been tweeting every reported U.S. drone strike since 2002, and he has found a tactic that is considered a war crime. According to an article in Business Insider, this tactic, called the "double tap," is to bomb a target multiple times in quick succession. This tactic often involves hitting first responders who are making their way to the scene after the initial strike.
The FBI itself considers this a tactic used by terrorists.
Obama nominee is architect of drone programPresident Obama has nominated John Brennan as the next director of the CIA. Brennan is behind the expanded drone program that has killed many innocent civilians in the "War on Terror".
He also has connections to "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e. torture, under the Bush administration.
"Brennan was the first Obama administration official to acknowledge publicly that the drone strike programme existed, describing them in an April 2012 speech as 'legal, ethical, and wise'.
He said: 'Yes, in full accordance with the law -- and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives -- the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific Al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones.'"
Read the entire story about Brennan's nomination here.
"The woes of an American drone operator"An international news site talks to several drone operators, who work from remote sites as they launch drone strikes all over the world.
The story talks to one who left the job after it became too much for him.
Representatives demand drone documentsRepresentatives Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich both oppose the use of drone strikes and are demanding legal documents that are being used by the Obama administration to justify the use of drones.
So far, the administration does not seem inclined to comply.
Filmmaker interviews victims of drone attacksRobert Greenwald traveled to Pakistan to talk to people who have had family members killed by American drones.
In an interview, he said: "Many of the people asked me to talk to the president of the United States, and to explain to him who they were -- that they were not terrorists; they were farmers, they were peasants, they were poor people, they were working people, they were religious people. I heard that over and over again -- to please explain this to the President how much damage this was doing. And some of them had the belief that just his understanding who they really were would force him to change his mind about the drone attacks."
Read the full interview here.
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Three Afghan women from Afghans for Peace lead the anti-war, anti-NATO rally in Chicago at the request of Veterans for Peace, who marched behind them on May 20, 2012.
This march from Union Square New York on April 9, 2011, is considered the largest anti-war rally and march in the last five years. It was hailed as the beginning of a major alliance between 500 anti-war, labor, civil rights and Muslims groups that endorsed it.
Photo by Tom Slaughter, courtesy of Gothamist.com.
1199 SEIU endorses an April 9, 2011, rally in New York.
On Feb. 28, 20111, Malik Mujahid addressed the board meeting of 1199 SEIU in New York, the largest single union in the United States.
From left: George Gresham, president of 1199 SEIU, Imam Malik Mujahid and Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator of the United National Anti-War Committee.
George Gresham, president of 1199 SEUI, the largest union in the nation with 375,000 members, was the keynote speaker at the training summit of the Muslim Peace Coalition on Jan. 8, 2011.
Mike Grecan provided "Organizing 101" training at a Muslim Peace Coalition event. He is a community organizer and executive director of Industrial Area Foundation. He is the author of "Going Public: An Organizer's Guide to Citizen Action."
At a training event, Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, shared the history of the peace movement in the United States, focusing on the role of Catholic peacemakers.
Imam Al-Ameen Abdul Latif and thirty other imams and mosque leaders participated in a day-long training summit and mosque leadership meeting organized by the Muslim Peace Coalition.
About 250 peace activists attended a day-long peace training summit at the Islamic Center of Long Island on Jan. 8, 2011.
There was enthusiastic participation by a large number of young peace activists at the Muslim Peace Coalition summit, thanks to social media mobilization.
The Muslim Peace Coalition and other peacemakers demonstrated against the bigotry of Fox News in New York.
Congress holds hearing on drone strikes
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on drone strikes, with members on both sides of the aisle expressing concern about the program.
However, most of the concern lingered on the fact that drones have been used to kill Americans on foreign soil who have been suspected of terrorism.
Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan, did bring up the killing of non-citizens, known as "signature strikes" against people suspected in suspicious activity whose identities are not fully known.
"To date, the administration has not even acknowledged that this program exists - let alone provided this committee with the information it requires to examine the legality of the program," he said.
Read the entire story on the hearing here.
At least 4,700 killed in drone strikes
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham recently released possibly classified information indicating that at least 4,700 people have been killed in drone strikes by the United States.
It's unclear the number of civilians included in that total. There have been at least 350 drone strikes since 2004.
UN launches inquiry into drone strikesThe United Nations announced on Jan. 24 that it will be looking into the impact drone strikes and targeted killings have on civilians.
The probe will look into the impact of drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine and Somali.
Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur, said the increased use of drones "represents a real challenge to the framework of international law." He said the use of drones would grow if unregulated.
According to the BBC: "The inquiry will assess the extent of civilian casualties, the identity of militants targeted and the legality of strikes where there is no UN recognition of a conflict."
Drone bases, usage growAmerica is looking to put a drone base in Niger, calling up speculation that the United States will have a permanent presence in North Africa in its continuing 'war on terror."
"Now that Afghanistan and Iraq are officially 'over,' the focus appears to be moving West, to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to the ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria, to the scattered militias in Libya, and toward terrorist attackers like those who hit the Algeria gas facility this month. This just continues the pattern of the Sahara region drawing more and more of America's military resources and attention. And history shows that once the Pentagon establishes a presence in an foreign country, it becomes almost impossible to get them to leave."
A look at drone use as Obama's second term startsA University of Michigan columnist takes a look at Obama's first term in light of the inauguration and reflects on his use of drones.
"With the second inauguration behind us, it’s time to reflect on Obama’s successes and failures. As we turn the page on his first term, we can say that his administration did make efforts to wind down the wars in the Middle East. Now, it’s time for Obama to bring these wars to an end. However, with a smaller number of ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan he must limit the use of aerial drones in the coming years.
During his first term, Obama dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as a foreign policy tool in the Middle East and Africa. Some in the media have argued that Obama’s position has changed from supporting a nation-building counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan to a whac-a-mole approach that uses drones to “take out” targeted enemies.
For policymakers in Washington, it’s time to reduce the military’s and intelligence agencies’ dependence on drones, since their continued usage is angering an increasing number of civilians abroad. In January 2012, Iraqi senior officials expressed their outrage over the use of a small number of drones in Iraq after the withdrawal of American troops from the region. In October 2012, thousands of Pakistanis, most notably in the capital, Islamabad, protested against the use of drones in the tribal regions of the country. Going forward, the president must keep this in mind when he decides to use a drone strike to take out targets.
Obama’s reliance on drones has created discord within the United States as well. Americans are increasingly concerned about the number of innocent civilians killed by drone strikes. As a result, popular support for drones decreased from 83 percent to 62 percent between Feb. 2012 and June 2012 according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Domestic support remains high, but Americans are starting to become more skeptical about the ramifications of drone strikes, particularly since they have been left out of the discussion."
'Zero DarkThirty' director addresses torture, dronesKathyrn Bigelow, director of the much-talked-about movie "Zero Dark Thirty," about the killing of Osama bin Laden, wrote an editorial for the L.A. Times that addressed some of the criticism of her work. The movie has been touted by some as one that supports the idea of torture, and the Senate has even called for hearings to assess whether or not the CIA misled the filmmakers on the use of torture.
In the editorial, Bigelow wrote:
"Those of us who work in the arts know that depiction is not endorsement. If it was, no artist would be able to paint inhumane practices, no author could write about them, and no filmmaker could delve into the thorny subjects of our time ...
On a practical and political level, it does seem illogical to me to make a case against torture by ignoring or denying the role it played in U.S. counterterrorism policy and practices.
Experts disagree sharply on the facts and particulars of the intelligence hunt, and doubtlessly that debate will continue. As for what I personally believe, which has been the subject of inquiries, accusations and speculation, I think Osama bin Laden was found due to ingenious detective work. Torture was, however, as we all know, employed in the early years of the hunt. That doesn't mean it was the key to finding bin Laden. It means it is a part of the story we couldn't ignore. War, obviously, isn't pretty, and we were not interested in portraying this military action as free of moral consequences."
The Telegraph is also reporting that Bigelow addresses the use of drones by the Obama administration.
"Speaking at a screening in London ... she said: 'Why I'm proud of the movie is that I think if we don't look at some really regrettable practices we're doomed to repeat it.'"
Mark Boal, screenwriter of the film, said, "Drone strikes are continuing at a pace that Bush in his wildest dreams, or Cheney ... would never have imagined, that you could do this sort of thing. There should be a conversation about that I think."
Perpetuating Islamophobia in TV and movies?Rachel Shabi writes about the Islamophobic themes that are coming through on successful and highly praised TV shows and movies. In The Guardian, she takes a look at "Homeland," "Argo," and "Zero Dark Thirty."
"It's all supposed to be a massive stride forward in the portrayal of complexity, made to challenge American audience preconceptions -- and a far cry from the bad old days depicted in 'Reel Bad Arabs,' a documentary that shows how Hollywood caricatures Arabs as 'belly dancers, billionaire sheikhs and bombers,' according to one reviewer.
But such slick, award-winning cinema isn't about nuance, it's just self-serving moral ambiguity -- and in this sense it is a fitting cultural reflection of actual US policy in the Middle East."
"Death by brown skin"Wajahat Ali, playwright, wrote a piece for Salon.com on the death of Sunando Sen, who was pushed off a subway platform in New York by a woman who said she hates Muslims and Hindus.
"Menendez admitted the hate crime, explaining she 'pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.'
Never mind that Sen was raised Hindu and the 9-11 terrorist attacks were coordinated by 19 foreign hijackers primarily from Saudi Arabia.
An unbalanced, paranoid mind marinated in our oversaturated Islamophobic environment is numb to such cultural specifics and susceptible to conflate anyone appearing 'Muslimy' as the 'enemy.'
Although Islamophobes did not cause the NYC murder, they contaminate civil society with their toxic ideological fuel and remain a beacon for bigots, hate-mongers, and the mentally unhinged, all of whom emerge from the same diseased infrastructure."
A look at IslamophobiaHaroon Moghul takes a look at Islamophobia in light of the newest incident where a Hindu man was pushed off a subway platform and killed in New York.
"Islamophobia is anything but rational, fair, or grounded. Like climate change denial, it masks real threats and makes it harder for us to deal with them. America deserves a better conversation on Islam. One that has the room to acknowledge real threats and challenges, but also enables us to make smarter choices, and to deal with Muslims as what we are: Human beings."
Innocent man killed by Islamophobic womanBy now, you've probably heard about the horrible death of Sunando Sen, a Hindu man in New York who was pushed off a subway platform by a woman who is now charged with a hate crime.
Erika Menendez said in a statement: "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up."
It's a sad statement on the way Islamophobia has permeated American society.
This incident also comes after Pamela Geller, infamous Islamophobe, launched her newest ad campaign against Islam in New York.
Peace activists visit Afghanistan
Activists with Aghan Peace Volunteers have been in Afghanistan this month. The group is part of a community education center in Kabul.
Two of those who are traveling with the group have been writing about their experience. John Dear, a Christian peace activist, has been updates at the Huffington Post.
Ann Wright, a U.S. Army/Army Reserves veteran, is also writing about the trip.
She writes: "Our delegation from the United States, Ireland and Australia, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire and renown peace advocate John Dear, met with the women and listened to their stories of pain and grief from the past 12 years of war. The women said that only with peace in Afghanistan could their lives be lifted out of the misery they were enduring."
Supporting torture?The new movie "Zero Dark Thirty," which chronicles the killing of Osama bin Laden, has been receiving criticism because it seemingly advocates torture as a means to obtaining information.
In an opinion piece this week, Frank Bruni of The New York Times writes: "I'm betting that Dick Cheney will love the new movie 'Zero Dark Thirty.'"
The movie reportedly portrays a CIA agent who is able to obtain information about bin Laden's location in 2004 after several scenes\ of horrendous violence.
"It’s about finding a needle in a uniquely messy and menacing haystack. 'Enhanced interrogation techniques' like waterboarding are presented as crucial to that search, and it’s hard not to focus on them, because the first extended sequence in the movie shows a detainee being strung up by his wrists, sexually humiliated, deprived of sleep, made to feel as if he’s drowning and shoved into a box smaller than a coffin.
The explicit detail with which all of this is depicted could, I suppose, be read as the moviemakers' indictment of it, and to some extent 'Zero Dark Thirty' will function as a Rorschach test, different viewers seeing in it what they want to see ...
In the name of our democracy, we have long done and we continue to do some ruthless cost-benefit analyses and some very ugly things, to which we should never turn a blind eye. Whatever “Zero Dark Thirty” gets wrong, it gets that much right."
Read the entire column here.
Read more critiques of the movie here.
We want it to stopKathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, has been in the Gaza Strip during the recent violence between Palestine and Israel.
She has met many families whose children were killed by Israeli rocket attacks.
"When Ahmed went into the room, he saw, with horror, that it was true. A fleck of shrapnel from the rocket had killed his youngest son, eight year-old Fares Basyouni. Fares had been completely decapitated but for a strip of flesh from the side of his face. The child’s blood covered the ceiling, the walls and the floor."
Read Kathy's full report here.
Young men from Beit Hanoun tell visitors what happened when Israeli rockets hit their neighborhood on Nov. 15, 2012, killing two children.
Iraq veteran feels at home in anti-war group In a story Mercury News, a veteran of the Iraq war talks about why she decided to join Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Dottie Guy, former member of the group, said:
"One thing she focuses a lot on is how the people in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. She doesn't want us to forget about the other side. She wants to make sure they have their story told."
Palestine wins status as a state in U.N. voteIn a vote a the United Nations on Thursday, Nov. 29, Palestine was upgraded to the status of a nonmember state.
Israel and the United States had opposed the measure.
More than 130 countries voted for Palestinian statehood. Although it's unclear what pragmatic effect this vote would have for Palestine, it showed international support for Palestinians.
"The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine," said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before the vote.
”We have not heard one word from any Israeli official expressing any sincere concern to save the peace process," he continued. “On the contrary, our people have witnessed, and continue to witness, an unprecedented intensification of military assaults, the blockade, settlement activities and ethnic cleansing, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem, and mass arrests, attacks by settlers and other practices by which this Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement.”
Read the entire story here.
Key figure in rebuilding Afghanistan talks about broken statesAshraf Ghani, who was a key figure in rebuilding Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, gave a TED talk on the necessity of economic investment and design ingenuity to put together broken states.
The real victims in Israel and Palestine are the childrenLeslie Marshall wrote an opinion piece showcasing the real victims of violence: children.
"I ask you America, do some feel perhaps that an Israeli child's life is worth more than that of a Palestinian child's life? And for those that find that an odd or offensive question, I have another question for you to ponder: If 20 Israeli children had been killed by bombings in five days would there be outrage in our nation? And if so, where is the outrage for the nearly two dozen children that have been killed in the span of a week by Israel?
For every missile that is launched, and every bomb that is dropped, it is the children of Gaza who stand to suffer most. For they comprise more than 50 percent of the entire population of the 1.7 million people of Gaza, so they're an easier target just by their mere numbers. (More than half of Gaza is under 18). That is nearly a million children, America. We cry for the unborn. Where are the cries for these children? For those born who suffer from the bloodshed they have seen? Who have been used as human shields? Who dodge bullets to try to go to school—when their schools are open? They wet their beds, have nightmares, will grow up to be emotionally damaged and perhaps, when we teach them violence will only turn to violence in their future."
Read the entire piece here.
Rally for PalestineAmerican Muslims for Palestine held a rally in Chicago on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, to stop the killing of Palestinians in Gaza.
The photos below are courtesy of American Muslims for Palestine.
Articles on Activism
Click on the links below to read articles by activists.
Best resources on the indefinite detention issue
Washington Post covers MPC Summit at the Long Island Islamic Center in Westbury
The evil of indefinite detention and those wanting to de-prioritize it
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