Elbit gets the elbow from Brazil, pro Palestinian BDS protesters claim another success

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Protesters call for action against Elbit Systems from the rooftop of their factory in Port Melbourne (image Angela Wylie)

(First published on Radical Sister December 3rd 2014)

Today, Rafeef Ziadah, Palestinian performance poet and activist tweeted to the world, “lets start the day with some good news: Major BDS win, Elbit Systems loses key Brazil deal over Palestine protests.”

Earlier this year (August 5th 2014) I reported that London Palestine Action, a network of people in London taking creative action against Israeli apartheid through Boycott,Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) began a roof-top demonstration at Shenstone, Staffordshire where parts are produced for military drones.

Activists shut down a factory, calling on the British government to “Stop Arming Israel” from UAV Engines Ltd and for bosses to be arrested. They claimed that drone engines manufactured at the factory have been exported to Israel in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Protesters tweeted the following message to Prime Minister David Cameron from their rooftop perch,

“by allowing this factory to export drone components to Israel, UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.” 

Full article can be read on the following link,

https://activist1.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/stop-arming-israel-anti-drone-protesters-occupy-shenstone-in-solidarity-with-gaza/

Similar protests against the company took place elsewhere including a rooftop demonstration at an Elbit Port Melbourne factory in Australia. The Age (Victoria) reported the words of Sam Castro, a spokeswoman for the Melbourne Palestine Activist Group, who claimed drones built by Elbit had been used in the Gaza conflict. She stated,

“[Israel is] creating an incremental genocide on the Palestinian people. This is not about the Jewish people, this is about a rogue state” 

WARNING GRAPHIC… to see some of the injuries caused by drones and Israeli military, click on the following link,

http://londonprogressivejournal.com/article/view/1903/gaza-genocide-urgent-plea-from-dr-mads-gilbert-shifa-hospital

BDS has today reported that, “the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul has cancelled a major collaboration deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems in the wake of protests over the firm’s role in oppression of Palestinians.”

Brazilian activists protested to prevent the deal over Elbit’s role in the construction of Israel’s illegal apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank going ahead. Campaigners also pointed out what they alleged was a close relationship with the Israeli military.

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Stop the Wall campaign and part of the BDS movement was quoted as saying,

“Elbit Systems has become a symbol of Israel’s construction of an apartheid wall in occupied Palestine and its military aggression against our people. Israel is only able to sustain its human rights violations because of international collaboration including through deals such as the one that the Rio Grande do Sul government has now cancelled.”

Full story here,

http://www.bdsmovement.net/2014/elbit-systems-loses-key-brazil-deal-12878?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=tumblr&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PalestineNews+%28Palestine+News%29

Campaigners welcomed the decision of the Rio Grande do Sul government which was keen to point out that they had taken notice of the social movements involved in action against Elbit and the importance of upholding human rights and the promotion of peace.

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Ex GCHQ boss: UK must publish policy on US drone strikes (Reprieve statement)

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Wreckage left by a drone strike (image, National Organization Drone Victims)

Reprieve Statement (Thu Nov 27, 2014)

(First published on Radical Sister November 27th 2014)

The former director of intelligence agency GCHQ has called on the British Government to publish its policy on sharing intelligence with the US which is used to target covert drone strikes.

Sir David Omand, backed by Conservative MP David Davis and Labour MP Tom Watson, has written to the Foreign Secretary “to request that your Department consider disclosing the Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel applicable to the passing of intelligence relating to individuals who are at risk of targeted lethal strikes outside traditional battlefields.”

The letter notes the Government’s “limited response” to parliamentary questions on the issue and stresses that “failure to confirm such safeguarding arrangements exist undermines the assurances of Government and could make it harder, if issues arise, to defend the UK’s actions.”

It stresses that there is precedent for disclosing such guidance and that doing so “could not impact adversely on individual operations” nor “damage strong bilateral relations.”

The letter follows similar calls from the Commons Defence Committee, and comes as Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee criticises the UK Government for setting a “dangerous precedent” on drones.  In a report on The FCO’s human rights work in 2013, published today, the FAC calls on the UK to provide a written response to concerns expressed by a UN official over the lack of an international legal framework governing the use of drones.

In October, a policy commission chaired by Sir David and initiated by the University of Birmingham, cited the “sinister cultural and political salience” of US drone operations, noting that the “UK simply does not accept the specific US legal justification for using RPA [drones] for the targeted killing of AQ-related terrorist targets.” It said the government needed to ensure “safeguards” were in place to prevent “inadvertent collusion” in drone strikes that were “contrary to international law”.

Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at legal charity Reprieve and a member of the Birmingham Commission chaired by Sir David said: “The UK Government can no longer bury its head in the sand when it comes to the part it plays in US drone strikes.  There is overwhelming evidence that British intelligence and infrastructure supports a US-led covert war which has killed hundreds of civilians with impunity.  At the very least, the public deserves a straight answer from their Government on what its role is, and what – if any – safeguards are in place.”

ENDS

Ormand’s letter

http://im.ft-static.com/content/images/38d6c1ca-7581-11e4-a1a9-00144feabdc0.pdf

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

US drone strikes kill 28 unknown people for every intended target, new Reprieve report reveals

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Aftermath of drone strike in Yemen

(image from National Organization For Drone Victims)

(Article first published on Radical Sister, 26th November 2014)

PRESS RELEASE:  Monday November 24, 2014

US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill 41 named individuals, a report by human rights charity Reprieve has found.

The report looks at deaths resulting from US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan between November 2002 and November 2014. It identifies 41 men who appeared to have been killed multiple times – drawing into question the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the covert drone programme is ‘precise.’

While the US drone programme is shrouded in secrecy, security sources regularly brief the media on the names of those suspected militants targeted or killed in the strikes. Frequently, those individuals are reported to have been targeted or killed on multiple occasions.

Reprieve’s assessment is the first to provide an estimate of the number of people – including in some cases children – who are killed each time the US apparently attempts to assassinate a ‘high value target.’ Due to the US Government’s refusal to publish any information relating to the programme, or the ‘Kill List’ said to determine its targets, the analysis is limited to existing, publicly-available data from media reports and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Key findings of the report include:

  • In Pakistan, 24 men were reported as killed or targeted multiple times. Missed strikes on these men killed 874 people, including 142 children.
  • In Yemen, 17 men were reported killed or targeted multiple times. Missile strikes on these men killed 273 others and accounted for almost half of all confirmed civilian casualties and 100% of all recorded child deaths.
  • In targeting Ayman al Zawahiri, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults. They failed twice, and Ayman al Zawahiri is reportedly still alive.
  • It took the US six attempts to kill Qari Hussain, a Pakistani target. During these attempts, 128 people were killed, including 13 children.
  • Each assassination target on the US government’s so-called Kill List ‘died’ on average more than three times before their actual death.

The US government’s drone programme has come under increasing scrutiny after a number of strikes that hit large numbers of civilians by mistake. It was recently revealed – as a result of investigations by Reprieve – that the US government compensates civilian victims of drone strikes in Yemen.

Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at Reprieve who compiled the report, said:“These ‘high value targets’ appear to be doing the impossible – dying not once, not twice, but as many as six times. At the same time, hundreds of unknown men, women and children are also caught in the crosshairs. President Obama continues to insist drone strikes are ‘precise’, but when targeting one person instead kills as many as 128 others, there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn – there’s nothing targeted about the US drone programme.”

END

Report link

You never die twice: Multiple kills in the US drone program

http://www.reprieve.org/uploads/2/6/3/3/26338131/2014_11_24_pub_you_never_die_twice_-_multiple_kills_in_the_us_drone_program.pdf

Reprieve Website

http://www.reprieve.org.uk/

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Yemen: Drone strikes in striking images

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Dedicated to the National Organization for Drone Victims Yemen (with thanks for images)

(First published on Radical Sister October 2nd 2014)

Message from Yemen

“Thank you for your sincere co-humanity and I hope to convey the suffering of these children and all drone victims in Yemen to the communities of Western people that do not know our suffering. The Western countries, especially the United States have committed crimes against innocent people and confiscate their right to life unlawfully and without accountability from the international community. It is really a tragedy and ignores the principles, moral values ​​and humanity which they flaunt in their fight against terrorism. They practice and sow terror increasing our hatred of Western society”

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Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Pakistan Air Force: Could “retirement” and detention cases have a link to drone policy

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F16 fighters (Pakistan Air Force) but are PAF also linked to US drone strikes? (image Wikimedia, Commons)

(First published 27th September 2014 on Radical Sister)

A letter received by the author earlier this year may shed some light on the strange case of officers allegedly being penalized after seeking to take early retirement from the Pakistan Air Force and refused their requests. There appears to be more to these cases than first meets the eye.

Back in June, DAWN media announced that “within a span of three weeks, three air force officers have gone to the Lahore High Court (LHC) seeking premature early retirement from Pakistan Air Force (PAF), citing different reasons.”

Squadron Leader Akhtar Abbas sought to retire on medical and compassionate grounds and go abroad with his wife but his request for early retirement was turned down by PAF authorities leading to his detention soon after filing his petition on May 14th 2014. Two other petitions were then filed, one on May 26th from the father of Squadron Leader Shahzeb Mehmood for the early retirement of his son who was also allegedly detained. Then another petition was filed on June 2, from Squadron Leader Malik Masood Anwar who complained of being penalized by his employers.

Squadron leader Abbas alleged discrimination naming others within the airforce that had been granted early retirement. Discrimination was denied by PAF.

Although the DAWN article did not go into specific detail there were suggestions that at least one of the officers Squadron Leader Anwar may have been reluctant to carry out certain duties,

“his petition said he was posted at PAF base Mushaf, Sargodha, when he was sent “to another outfit which was employed on military operations at homeland/home soil, during 2007.

The petitioner due to his belief and understanding did not participate in these operations and kept himself away from such duty”

It appears that PAF spokesman commodore Tariq Mehmood declined to comment on the specifics of these duties thus adding more mystery to the cases.

Could Squadron Leader Anwar declining to participate in certain operations be related to drone policy?

US drones operating over Pakistan have long been an issue of contention due to civilian casualties with accusations on the one hand that America is violating Pakistan sovereignty and airspace whilst on the other hand there have been allegations that Pakistan secretly co-operates and assists the US.

In 2013 CNN reported that “ex-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged his government secretly signed off on U.S. drone strikes, the first time a top past or present Pakistani official has admitted publicly to such a deal.” CCN went further to bring light to previously alleged clandestine operations by stating the following,

“in a cable sent in August 2008 and later posted online by Wikileaks, then US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson mentioned a discussion about drones during a meeting that also involved interior minister Rehman Malik and then-Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Malik suggested we hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation,” Patterson wrote. “The PM brushed aside Rehman’s remarks and said, ‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.’ “

US drone strikes on Pakistan are now well documented but could Pakistan have played a more active role providing intelligence as opposed to simply turning a blind eye to drone strikes? I had been made aware of earlier allegations that US may receive help on the ground using lazers to guide drones to target but due to press denied access to the drone hit Federally Administered Tribal Areas, it is difficult to talk to those in the vicinity.

The following letter was received (author wishes to remain anonymous) regarding Sqn Ldr Akhtar Abbsas which alleges PAF may have more direct involvement in drones than previously thought:-

Allegations that Abbas case may be linked to drone policy (Pakistan, US)

Kindly highlight Sqn Ldr Akhtar Abbas case in British Media.

Why, because Pak Air Force is directly related to Drone Policy. Pak Air Chief is ever ready to bomb Waziristan in order to throw a spanner in peace process. However his F-16 are rusting when it comes to Abbotabbad or Drone issue.

If provided lawful protection, such young and honest officers can provide valuable input to stance against Drones/peace process as whistle blower to past 10 years genocide through drone attacks and bombing campaigns on Waziristan.

One of my old day friends who was in Pak Air Force as Air Defense Officer said in private gathering that Drone Attacks were monitored jointly by PAF Air Defense Officers along with American from US Embassy in Islamabad.

While the intelligence input for Drone was provided by CTC (Counter Terrorism Cell) in ISI. This cell headed by a Major General and was directly funded by US and it was not answerable to none even in ISI and Army.

For taking his case to media and court first Sqn Akhtar Abbas was posted to some remote location as punishment and now he has been arrested for no crime.

Sqn Ldr Akhtar Abbas cell number is + ………… 

Regards

We know PAF have an active role in the bombing of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where jets and helicopter gunships are used and there have been questions over alleged killing of civilians discussed in previous articles. However last week in Geneva for the first time the Human Rights Council formally discussed the issue of armed drones over countries including Pakistan in violation of international human rights law as well as the UN Charter and condemned arbitrary killings. Representatives from 21 countries attended the conference.

Russia TV reports a statement given by Pakistan’s Foreign Office recently which condemned the latest drone strike, claiming,

“with the decisive action being taken against terrorist elements in North Waziristan, (referring to miliary operation Zarb -e-Asb, launched in June) there is no need for such strikes…… we, therefore, urge US for a cessation of such strikes”

Express Tribune highlighted Shahzad Akbar, Legal Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights who noted that “a state could not use deadly force merely because capture (of militants) was not feasible; the individual in question must pose an imminent threat to human life.” He said,

“the experience in Pakistan showed that this simply was not the case. The obligation was not upon individuals to prove they posed no threat but the obligation was upon the State firing armed drones to show that their use of force was necessary” 

Given the recent ethical and legal debates on drones, it is important to establish what exactly is the role of Pakistan in relation to the US and drones. Too much has already been swept under the carpet and if PAF does have a more active role which may be causing internal friction for officers surely they must be addressed. Dilema and possible dissent within armed forces cannot be good for the security of the country.

According to DAWN, Squadron Ldr Abbas now faces a series of charges,

“Mr Abbas was being tried by a Field General Court Martial for various charges, including a charge under Section 65 of the PAF Act, entitled ‘An Act Prejudical To Good Order And Air Force Discipline’.

His crime is that he ‘while being in the service of PAF, filed a writ petition against the federation of Pakistan and chief of air staff in the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench’”

Abbas is fighting back by filing the following charges with Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court by

“seeking contempt of court proceedings against the defence secretary and the air force, alleging that they were treating him as an offender for seeking a judicial remedy”

It remains to be seen how much will come out in the public domain and whether disgruntled employees may reveal a lot more than was bargained for regarding the actions of Pakistan’s Air Force.

Link

“Double standards: US condemns use of drones as US strikes Pakistan once again”

https://activist1.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/double-standards-un-condemns-use-of-drones-as-us-strikes-pakistan-once-again/

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Double standards: UN condemns use of drones as US strikes Pakistan once again

US-Drone-attacks-on-Pakistan

 

(First published on Radical Sister on September 24th 2014)

Whatever happened to Pakistan’s drone activists? This is not the time to be selective… you are either for or against the use of drones. The silence is shameful.

Today Dawn media reported that at least six (possibly eight) people were killed and several others injured in a US drone strike in the Dattakhel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency” with missiles hitting a vehicle near a compound at around 3.30am.

Dawn stated,

“intelligence sources said that the US drone fired four missiles and completely destroyed a compound and a vehicle in the Alwara Mandi area of Dattakhel, about 60 kilometres from the main town of Miramshah.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed several months ago to be against drone strikes but his failure to speak out and lack of action suggests he no longer has a problem with a foreign aircraft entering Pakistan’s airspace. Imran Khan, chairman of opposition party Pakistan Tereek-i-Insaf (PTI party) usually so outspoken on drones has also been much quieter since the start of Pakistan Army military operation Zarb-e-Asb in June, intended to clear militants from North Waziristan.

The operation began swiftly with Pakistan egged into action following a visit in May from US Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Burns who met with Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. Dawn reported,

“sources close to the meetings said that Burns conveyed the message of the United States to top Pakistani civil and military officials during the meetings, asking for the destruction of terrorist sanctuaries located in North Waziristan. On behalf of the US, he requested that this operation should be completed before the installation of the new political administration in Kabul”

This resulted in the displacement of an estimated 1 million civilians who have regularly been on the receiving end of both US drones strikes and Pakistan jet attacks and shelling and now been forced to abandon their homes and all they own. The anger of Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs) is no longer so contained as seen recently in a number of demonstrations in Peshawar. They accuse officials of being ignored, poor provision of aid and state their wish to return home as quickly as possible.

Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, was reported in theGuardian (Monday, 22nd September) ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva, stating, “there is a pressing need for clarity, transparency and accountability about the use of armed drones in counter-terrorism operations, and the level of civilian casualties they inflict.”

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Nabila Rehman, drone victim testifies in US (image Popular Resistance) 

A resolution calling for a debate on the use of armed drones was sponsored by Pakistan, (though opposed by the UK and US) however little meaningful action by governments is  taken against those carrying out drone strikes. A Yemeni citizen though will not stay silent, he is preparing his own strike back,

See “MOD facing legal challenge over armed drone deployment outside Afghanistan”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/22/mod-facing-legal-challenge-armed-reaper-drone-deployment-afghanistan

The UN Human Rights Council has now condemned arbitrary killings by the use of armed drones in Pakistan with the Express Tribune reporting that,

“this is the first time that the Human Rights Council has formally discussed the issue of armed drones in violation of international human rights law as well as the UN Charter. All countries except the US, UK and France condemned the human rights consequences of US drone strikes in Pakistan and other parts of the world”

Full story here,

“Targeting Pakistan:UN rights panel condemns use of drones”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/766427/targeting-pakistan-un-rights-panel-condemns-use-of-drones/

Time for Sharif to wake up to the concerns voiced in Geneva and possible legal implications for Pakistan. In addition to this issue, will the government currently turning a blind eye to US drone strikes be so complacent when locally adapted drones start hitting Pakistan’s cities?

It is only a matter of time that this will happen. In the not too distant future, there is the likelihood of customized “payback” drones coming from insurgents as they develop the technology to hit back and strike vulnerable areas. There is already intelligence to suggest Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular may be exploring such possibilities. What will happen then?

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Drones and Double Standards: Why has Obama not added Israeli terrorist Netanyahu to his “kill list”

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Would Nawaz Sharif ignore a customized drone if it hit an aircraft?

(Photo WABC)

(Article first published on Radical Sister on 7th August 2014)

PAKISTAN…

What has happened to Pakistan’s drone activists… this is not the time to be selective… you are either for or against the use of drones… the silence is shameful!

On Wednesday two missiles from a US drone were reported to have been fired at alleged insurgents at a compound in Datta Khel, Waziristan, the tribal area of Pakistan. No names have been released of the dead through official sources are claiming 7 (alleged) militants.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed several months ago to be against US drone strikes but his failure to speak out in recent times and lack of action suggests he no longer has a problem with a foreign aircraft entering Pakistan’s airspace.

Imran Khan, chairman of opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) usually so outspoken on drones has been remarkably quiet also since the start of military Operation Zarb -e-Asb (named after the sword of the Prophet Muhammad) intended to clear local and foreign militants from N Waziristan.

This prolonged assault has displaced an estimated 1 million locals who have for some time been on the receiving end of drones, other aerial attacks and shelling and are now forced to abandon their homes and all they own. Their anger is no longer so contained as was seen yesterday in a demonstration by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Peshawar that were complaining of being ignored by officials.

 

 

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Angry IDPs Peshawar, hit by drones, other aerial attacks and now displaced (Photo via Aamir Saeed)

Sharif and the military may be able to turn a blind eye to US drone strikes. They probably have a fair idea who will be the next likely targets within a limited area, Waziristan (and Pakistan may well be sharing intelligence and actively assisting on the ground) but will they be so complacent when drones start hitting Pakistan’s cities?

I have no doubt that this will happen. The next drones may not be US military drones but could be customized “payback” drones as insurgents develop the technology to hit back. There is already claims to suggest Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular may be exploring such possibilities.

On 4th August ABC News highlighted concerns regarding “the potential dangers of drones in the skies over New York, after a string of close calls with passenger jets” referring to 11 incidents in 30 days,. These were not large armed drones but those for personal use. They stated,

“the worry is that those small drones could do big damage to jetliners filled with passengers”

and

“the biggest worry is that one of these drones can be ingested by a jet engine at high power on takeoff, for instance, and shut the engine down,” (according to aviation analyst John Nance)

So what is to stop an insurgent aiming a small drone armed or unarmed at a plane or building? Is this happened Sharif would not have a moral leg to stand on given his utter complacency when drones attack Pakistan.

 

IRAQ

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Alleged MQ-1 Predator drone filmed over Mosul, Iraq (photo, via David Cenciotti)

On Wednesday the BBC reported that at least 60 people have been killed in an Iraqi air strike on a building under Sunni militant control in the northern city of Mosul, officials say. There was some suggestion a drone may have been used with the intended target being an Islamic court used by jihadists according to a military spokesman for the prime minister. However Medical sources claimed a prison run by the Islamic State (IS) had been hit.

Photographs and a video were posted online earlier on 25th July suggesting that an armed US predator drone had been spotted over Mosul…a warning that strikes would likely follow. Prior to this there was also a media debate mentioned in the Washington Times about the possibility and criteria for America adding IS Caliph Abu bakr al Baghdadi to the list of drone targets (discussed with Washington Defense officials at the Pentagon). It was determined that al-Baghdadi would have to constitute a threat to the US and its interests for a strike to take place.

One more recent article that jumped out at me related to drones and Iraq was the journey of Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association in San Diego to deliver a message for President Barack Obama. This gentleman was  said to be leading a coalition of people who represent Chaldean Catholics in the Middle East to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice and possibly with Secretary of State John Kerry. In his desire to help Christians alleged to be fleeing Mosul to escape persecution from IS, the Times of San Diego reported that Arabo planned to ask for targeted drone strikes against IS.

If Obama has indeed targeted IS by drone, an obvious question would be why is he so active here but not so regarding protecting the majority Muslim population of the Gaza strip that has seen a ferocious onslaught from Israel, (including drones) that have killed and injured thousands of civilians who cannot escape this tiny area of land. Imagine the outrage if Obama targeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by drone yet he has been labelled a “terrorist” by several Latin American countries for alleged “war crimes”.

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Why is alleged “terrorist” Benjamin Netanyahu on US “kill list”?

(Photo RT)

Any use of drones on IS but not Israel would only demonstrate the gross double standards and bizarre selection process that condemns one person to death but not another. One could argue that Netanyahu is in fact threatening the stability of the US by his actions also, what if the peaceful protests in the US in support of Gaza suddenly turn violent and threatens the safety of Jewish communities? As US terrorism analyst Max Abrahms has been keen to show lately, the incidents of racism and aggression towards Jews since the attack on Gaza have in some areas doubled.

Fox News reported that Bill Reilly of The Reilly Factor in his programme, The Rise of antiSemitism asked Steve Bucci (Heritage Foundation) “how bad is this current anti-Semitism? Is it a dangerous situation or just an annoyance?”

Bucci replied, “well, I have to say, Bill, it’s way more than an annoyance. As you mentioned in your examples, we have problems with it here, (America), Europe is far worse. They have had major riots that have not just been anti-Israeli policy, but are blatantly anti-Jewish.”

Obama should indeed review his use of drones. If he is not careful he might find himself visited by other community leaders and this time they will be calling for a drone with Netanyahu’s name on the side! Why is is that insurgents are placed on a kill list but state terrorists are left to their deadly devices!

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Civilians in Gaza rescue household items after bombardment which includes Israeli drones (photos Rina Andolini)

The very same question could be asked of Prime Minister David Cameron as the UK is so busy killing hundreds of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan by drone to protect British troops as reported in the Mirror this week. So why does the UK drone programme not extend to targeting an Israeli “terrorist” to protect the civilians of Gaza targeted in their homes, schools and hospitals?

I am someone who is totally against the use of armed drones but I feel its important to point out the hypocrisy of these leaders whose double standards are astounding. The drone has become not only a weapon of mass destruction killing many innocent civilians but also a weapon that glorifies racism as the overwhelming majority of those targeted by drone are in fact Muslims! When was the last time you heard of a Jew, Buddhist, Christian or Hindu killed by a drone?

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

“Stop arming Israel”: Anti-drone protesters occupy roof of Elbit (Shenstone) in solidarity with Gaza

Protesters occupy the roof of a “drone” factory, Shenstone (left) and one of Gaza’s tiny victims (right) 

(First published on Radical Sister on Aug 5th 2015)

London Palestine Action, a network of people in London taking creative action against Israeli apartheid through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) began a roof-top protest at Shenstone, Staffordshire where parts are produced for military drones. Activists shut down a factory, calling on the British government to “Stop Arming Israel” from UAV Engines Ltd and for bosses to be arrested. They claim that drone engines manufactured at the factory have been exported to Israel in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Protesters tweeted that they were locked on the edge of the roof at a subsidiary of a company called Elbit (owned by Israel) ready to peacefully resist with enough supplies to keep them going for a week. Highlighting what has become an international campaign for BDS they had a strong message for Prime Minister David Cameron stating,

“by allowing this factory to export drone components to Israel, UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.” 

Attention was drawn to claims that since the beginning of the ongoing Israeli military assault on Gaza, Elbit Systems shares have climbed 6.1 percent. Killing is a profitable business!

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Activists wear “boycott Israel” T -shirts (left) and wave the Palestinian flag (right) 

The Guardian reports that according to Downing Street, the British government is now reviewing the sale of £8bn in arms and military goods to Israel to see whether each licence is appropriate in light of the conflict in Gaza. There have been accusations of “war crimes” from human rights groups with the United Nations calling the bombing of schools “a moral outrage”.

International pressure is growing. Haaretz  just announced that Spain has decided on a temporary freeze on arms exports to Israel. Other news emerged that Baronness Warsi has now quit as Foreign Office minister for Gaza claiming British government policy on the crisis in Gaza is “morally indefensible”. Bolivian President Evo Morales has gone as far as labelling Israel a “terrorist state” and Israelis must now have visas to visit. Meanwhile El Salvador, Chile and Peru recalled their ambassadors back home and more moves are anticipated from other Latin American countries.

The London Palestine protesters urged others to join them and stated that they were occupying their time reading classics such as John Roses, “The Myths of Zionism” and Ben White’s “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s guide” a clear swipe at the policies of the Benjamin Netanyahu government.

As fire-engines arrived at the scene and police took to roof level in a cherry-picker, one protester tweeted a photo of the emergency services, saying “this is who’s coming to get us. Not easy tweeting with a d-lock round your neck but we’ll keep trying.”

The plight of the Palestinian people has had an emotional impact on many, one police woman in the crane was said to be crying as an activist who lived in Gaza told her the story of the Samouni family who lost 29 loved ones. The roof protesters claim that “Elbit markets its drone technology as ‘battle tested’ a sickening boast that their drones have been proven effective at killing Palestinians.”

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Hospital workers in Gaza face burnt and mutilated remains (left) while the bodies of babies over-spill at morgues (right), some having to be kept in ice-cream freezers there are so many

Amnesty International (UK) gave support via Arms Programme Campaign Manager Oliver Sprague who released the following statement,

“It’s understandable that protesters are targeting UAV Engines given past concerns about the company supplying Israel with engines for drones.

“The government has previously claimed UAV Engines is only licensed to sell drone engines to Israel for onward export, but the fear is that this Israeli-owned company’s engines are actually powering Israeli drones over Gaza, or that the technology is being copied to allow Israel to fly its drone vehicles.

“Do we really want to see engines from Lichfield helping the Israeli military carry out war crimes in Gaza? Quite frankly no UK-based company should currently be supplying the Israeli military with any arms or equipment.

“Before these protests escalate, Downing Street should announce an immediate suspension of any further arms to Israel. We should not be complicit in war crimes.”

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Women of Gaza mourn their losses

This is not the first time the Shenstone factory has drawn attention. Back in February 2014, a “Power of Prayer” meeting took place to focus on concerns regarding use of armed drones. It was attended by students from The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education, Edgbaston, Birmingham. Professor John Hull of The Queen’s Foundation also penned a letter urging UAV to reconsider their role in the arms trade. He wrote,

“Drones using the engines made in this factory have killed, and will no doubt continue to kill, innocent women, men and children. Many of you will have families of your own and will be able to imagine the pain of those families whose members suffer death and appalling injuries from the drones made in this factory.”

“We believe that God, the God of Christians, Jews and Muslims who represents the universal conscience of humanity, is the source of peace and justice and that we will all stand before God on the judgement day.  We urge you to amend the nature and purpose of your activities to peaceful, non-military applications.”

“We have no ill will towards you personally and hope that your skills and talents can be put to use making alternative products that will benefit people and make their lives better.”

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A young boy in Vienna protests today at killing of Palestinian children (left) and young girl Aseel Bakri is killed yesterday in an airstrike on Gaza (right)

As far back as 2009, Human Rights Watch released a 39 page report Precisely Wrong: Gaza Civilians Killed by Israeli DroneLaunched Missiles,” which detailed six incidents resulting in 29 civilian deaths, among them eight children. HRW found that,

“Israeli forces failed to take all feasible precautions to verify that these targets were combatants, as required by the laws of war, or that they failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians. Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups have reported a total of 42 drone attacks that killed civilians, 87 in all, during the fighting in December 2008 and January 2009″

In recent days (July, 2014) a friend in Gaza tweeted that his young neighbour has been killed in a drone strike and that not long after the boy’s mother has collapsed and in his word’s, “died of a broken heart”.

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It seems that activists may remain on the roof for some some time to come as attempts to bring them down have so far failed. Support for their actions are building, though additional protesters are being kept away from the site. The latest word is that they are attempting to live-stream their efforts with campaigner Adie Nistelrooy and others giving speeches from their perch. As a long time anti-drone activist myself, I wish them every success, to remain silent now is to be complicit in the most hideous of crimes!

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

North Waziristan like Gaza is doomed by US “democracy” and state terrorism

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Devastation of military ops, Waziristan (left) and father of 4 dies of sunstroke during displacement, surrounded by his children (right) photo via Ihsan Tipu

(First published on Radical Sister on August 4th 2014)

In recent weeks the world has watched in horror as Gaza is subjected to a ferocious onslaught of Israeli state terror directed mostly against civilians. The latest operation named Protective Edge against US designated “terrorist” group Hamas is partly financed by the US that continues to supply arms to Israel. As investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald points out in the Intercept,

“the new (Edward) Snowden documents illustrate a crucial fact: Israeli aggression would be impossible without the constant, lavish support and protection of the US government, which is anything but a neutral, peace-brokering party in these attacks. And the relationship between the NSA (National Security Agency) and its partners on the one hand, and the Israeli spying agency on the other, is at the center of that enabling”

Israel appears to be using this American support to put their own version of the Nazis “final solution” policy into practice using collective punishment and ethnic cleansing… Could it get much worse? Yes it could and very likely WILL get much worse. The latest horror to unfold is hearing via Reuters that US, Deputy Secretary of State, Bill Burns and ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair are expected to fly to Cairo for “negotiations” on Gaza which will include delegations representing Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Now let us remind ourselves that Blair (along with George Bush) was tried in his absence as a “war criminal” at a tribunal of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, Malaysia, 2011 for his role in the Iraq war. The initiative was modelled on the Nuremberg principles applied to bring the Nazis to justice following World War Two. A petition is currently circulating for the totally unsuitable Blair to be removed as a Middle East peace envoy.

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Bus declaring Blair a war criminal tours London

At a time when politicians and human rights activists are very much focused on the situation in Gaza, another part of the world remains largely and deliberately hidden from view… the region of North Waziristan in Pakistan, an area I coined some time ago “the Gaza of Pakistan”. This is where Bill Burns also comes into play.

Before the nightmare of Operation “Protective Edge” began on Gaza, the Pakistan military launched an offensive against militants in North Waziristan six weeks ago named Operation “Zarb -e-Asb” after Prophet Muhammad’s sword (or as I prefer to call the operation “fall on your sword”)! Bill Burns visited Pakistan piling on the pressure to eliminate insurgents as part of the US War of Terror completely failing to address the part US foreign policy has in stoking the flames of insurgency around the world. Shortly after the Burns trip, it was announced that financial aid from the US would be directly linked to the success of military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). To carry out the orders of Washington meant forcibly removing around 1 million tribal people not involved in terrorist activities from their homes and into camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

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Bill Burns, US, (photo Al Monitor)  demands elimination of militants (left) and Musharraf, Pakistan, wanted to kill Pashtuns (right)

Tribal people, predominantly Pashtuns are often treated as second class citizens in Pakistan and still suffer under draconian law left over from British colonial rule which affects their human rights. They are caught between the Pakistan military and insurgents with little security.

Former President Pervez Musharraf (now on trial for treason), rather like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the Palestinians, favoured a policy of elimination receiving “dollars for deaths.” R.S Mohmand quoted Musharraf as saying,”Pashtuns are a bone of contention; I have asked Americans to kill them too in Afghanistan as I would kill them in Pakistan.” Indeed he did kill Pashtuns in Pakistan by secretly supporting the US drone programme which disposed of many innocent civilians, others, he allegedly sold to the US as “terrorists” without trial, some ending up in Guantanamo Bay.

From the start, serious concerns were raised about Operation Zarb -e-Asb. Bombing allegedly began BEFORE civilians could clear the affected areas. Locals repeatedly stated that the main militant leaders of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Haqqani and other groups had advance intelligence meaning they already left for safer territory and alleging that those being targeted were largely non-combatants.

Haji Saleem Khan, a 60 year old taxi driver from Shawal told the Express Tribune that the air attacks aimed at militants were not as surgically accurate as claimed, stating, “they killed women and children in the air strikes, I myself took out dead bodies from under the rubble.” These claims were frequently repeated by others including inNewsweek Pakistan where the alleged deaths of 37 civilians were reported. As Wali Muhammad, a 28 year old shopkeeper put so well, “you can’t cover up the sun with a finger” a Pashto expression meaning the truth will come out.

There does not appear to have been any legal opinion sought or discussed regarding the rights of those displaced and their suffering is viewed by nationalistic Pakistanis (in the comfort of their own homes) as a “necessary sacrifice” for the country. I wonder if the same attitude would have been adopted if residents in cities has been uprooted from their gated communities and forced to leave all their worldly belongings behind.

Many of the same Pakistanis that are so critical of actions in Gaza have turned a blind eye to the distress of their own citizens and previous Pakistan government with the usual double standards appear to have had no qualms about conducting business with Israel which has so oppressed the Palestinians. These business dealings may still be going on. According to a British report detailed in Haaretz, the following is revealed,

” in 2011 Israel sought to purchase British components to export radar systems to Pakistan, as well as electronic warfare systems, Head-up Cockpit Displays ‏(HUD‏), parts for fighter jets and aircraft engines, optic target acquisition systems, components of training aircraft, and military electronic systems. In 2010, Israel applied for permits to export electronic warfare systems and HUDs with components from Britain to Pakistan”

Could any of the afore mentioned systems have been used on the residents of North Waziristan in recent times?

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Humans and animals dying on route (left) and waiting for food rations (right) photos via Abdul Rehman Dawar

Regarding IDPs, there was a distinct lack of planning from the Nawaz Sharif government to provide adequate transport for fleeing civilians to travel from North Waziristan to “safe” areas such as Bannu. Men, women and children walked up to 60km in their thousands during a heatwave, covering long distances often taking along their livestock. Humans and animals died on route through sunstroke and exhaustion, unable to access water. Women gave birth by the side of the road. Sick and elderly relatives had to be left behind in their homes too frail to complete the journey. Families in transit lost contact with each other in a sea of bodies.

Some IDPs headed over the border into Afghanistan gathering around Khost where they felt they would receive a warmer welcome (a bone of contention with the Pakistan government) and then proceeded to burn the Pakistani flag in anger at their displacement.

When IDPs got to Bannu, most were afraid to migrate to the army camps and went instead to private homes which put additional pressure on impoverished locals with limited resources. From those that did use government facilities, there were tales of scorpian infested camps built in the wrong places, long waits, difficulties in registering and receiving rations (especially for widows and second wives) lack of medical care and even IDPs allegedly being beaten by local police as they protested at conditions. What has made matters worse is a growing disillusionment at the way this tragedy is being reported with little confidence in the ISPR (Inter Services Public Relation) few believing the figures of militant deaths are accurate. There is equal confusion over who has been captured as it seems there is a reluctance by the military to publish names of insurgents.

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Home is now a tent (left) and displaced children with their education interrupted (photos via Abdul Rehman Dawar)

Journalists have raised their own concerns that they have been unable to get into Waziristan to report the operation and some were told to “kill” stories that showed the situation of IDPs in a negative light. One writer highlighted that reporters that knew the area and might ask probing questions were being sidelined on official visits with the military who appear to be favouring those not so familiar with the region.

There are few genuinely on the side of IDPs. Even opposition party leader, Imran Khan Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI) known for his fight against the use of US drones who has often spoken up for tribal people seems to have caved in under pressure stating his support for the military operation. He does however continually bemoan the lack of finance and resources to cater for the needs of IDPs. Khan did turn up to spend Eid with displaced persons but there was little to celebrate for those that have lost family members and their homes.

Bill Burns (steering clear of IDPs) has made time recently to make sure Pakistan remains compliant in doing what the US wants by meeting with Tariq Fatemi, special assistant to the PM on foreign affairs,

“a statement issued by the Pakistan Embassy said Mr Burns appreciated Pakis­tan’s stabilising role in the region and reiterated the US support for prime minister’s economic development plan with special focus on energy and fighting extremism”

This of course has enabled Pakistan to go back to Burns with a begging bowl for reimbursing funds for the military operation and according to DAWN media “whatever equipment and weapons Pakistan might need for combating the Taliban”. For its part, the US that claims to champion human rights seems happy to turn a blind eye to Pakistan’s practice of “disappearing” people, torture in custody and extra judicial killing, the hallmarks of state terrorism. Though given the human rights record of the US, it would be a case of “the kettle calling the pot black”.

One of the reasons recent “peaces talks” failed was the refusal of the Pakistan government to address state terrorism which the Taliban continually pointed out by highlighting treatment of those detained by authorities and alleged dumped bodies of militants. After waiting 3 weeks for politicians to respond to a letter detailing concerns, Taliban realizing they would get no answers responded by killing 23 Frontier Corps men in their custody, lives that might have been saved if peace talks had been taken seriously and key issues discussed with honesty.

So finally back to Gaza. What schemes will Burns and Blair conjure up together during negotiations? One can only speculate and say a very big prayer for the locals. With those two in possible collaboration, there is little hope for any improvement for better conditions and freedom, it is likely there will be only more tears and pain for the ever suffering Palestinians.

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Bowe Bergdahl walks to freedom, photos and video

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Bowe waiting for helicopter and walking to freedom

(First published on Radical Sister on June 4th 2014)

Earlier this week I covered the story of the lead up to American Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, prisoner of the Taliban being released after 5 years in captivity and the exchange of 5 Taliban prisoners, see the following link

https://activist1.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/free-bowe-bergdahl-exchanged-for-5-taliban-a-determined-father-and-establishing-dialogue/

Now the Taliban have released a 17 minute video received by Conflict Analysis which claims to show the transfer. Bowe is seen waiting in a silver pick-up truck with red markings on the side and can be see rubbing his left eye as he is advised “don’t come back to Afghanistan.” Armed men wait on a hillside, one with what appears to be a rocket launcher, while others communicate by radio as a helicopter approaches an area of flat scrubland.

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Bowe, clean shaven, wearing shalwar kameez, black and white checked shawl around his shoulders and carrying a small bag is escorted to the helicopter by men carrying a while flag. He is greeted by 3 men and searched before boarding his long awaited flight to freedom.

Images of the Taliban prisoners can also be seen on the video arriving in Qatar.

Video link

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.