US Drone Blitz on Pakistan Continues

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by
Common Dreams

US Drone Blitz on Pakistan Continues

Three days of US missile attacks amid contentious political negotiations with Pakistani government for NATO supply route

by
Common Dreams staff

Up to 15 people have been killed in a third straight day of drone strikes in Pakistan by the US. Photograph: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty

A weekend of missile attacks in Pakistan did not cease on Monday, as US drones unleashed on what they claim was a hideout in the Hesokhel village, located in the North Waziristan tribal region.  Airstrikes further south on both Saturday and Sunday left as many as twelve dead, and today's death toll, estimated at fifteen, brings the three day total to nearly thirty.

The US drone campaign goes on amid contentious negotiations with the Pakistan government, as the Obama administration tries to convince the Pakistanis to re-open NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.  So far Pakistan has refused and continue to call for both an end to the drone campaign -- which results in the death of innocent civilians -- and for an apology for a cross-border raid last year that claimed the lives of 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Growing concern surrounds the Obama administration's policy of using remote controlled drones to target militants on the ground, as human rights campaigners and international law experts challenge the legality, morality, and ultimate effectiveness of such campaigns.

"While Obama's policies may go down a treat in the US, they are fomenting radicalism abroad, the very policy not only undermining our way of life but provoking an extremist hydra with many more heads." --Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve

"The sheer scope and breadth of Obama's national security policy has stunned even fervent Bush supporters and members of the Washington DC establishment," wrote The Guardian's US correspondent Paul Harris over the weekend. "In last week's New York Times article that detailed the 'kill list', Bush's last CIA director, Michael Hayden, said Obama should open the process to more public scrutiny. 'Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a [Department of Justice] safe,' he told the newspaper."

And Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the UK-based human rights group Reprieve, said, "While Obama's policies may go down a treat in the US, they are fomenting radicalism abroad, the very policy not only undermining our way of life but provoking an extremist hydra with many more heads."

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The Guardian: Drone blitz on Pakistan enters third straight day

Rockets fired from a US drone killed between eight and 15 people in north-west Pakistan on Monday, officials have said in varying accounts. It is the third strike in as many days after attacks on Saturday and Sunday killed a total of 12 people.

The latest strike targeted a militant hideout in the Hesokhel village of the North Waziristan tribal region, officials said.

US drones hit targets in the South Waziristan tribal region on Saturday and Sunday. There have been a total of seven strikes in less than two weeks.

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Al-Jazeera: Deaths Rise in Pakistan

The continued US drone campaign, which has accelerated under President Barack Obama, has become a point of contention between Islamabad and Washington.

"Many people here in Pakistan are frankly tired of the United States' presence in the region, and are calling for Islamabad to sever ties with the US."

Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Islamabad, said the recent spate of attacks have led to a "pretty toxic [relationship] right now between Islamabad and Washington".

That tension, said our correspondent, has also spilled out from the capital and onto the streets. "Many people here in Pakistan are frankly tired of the United States' presence in the region, and are calling for Islamabad to sever ties with the US," he said.

The ongoing attacks are also complicating efforts for the US and Pakistan to arrive at an agreement over reopening the supply routes to NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.

Our correspondent said the recent strikes, which has been seen as the US "showing with a lot of deadly force, their frustration with Pakistan".

This, has pushed "any kind of agreement further than ever", he added.

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Paul Harris: Drone wars and state secrecy – how Barack Obama became a hardliner

The sheer scope and breadth of Obama's national security policy has stunned even fervent Bush supporters and members of the Washington DC establishment. In last week's New York Times article that detailed the "kill list", Bush's last CIA director, Michael Hayden, said Obama should open the process to more public scrutiny. "Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a [Department of Justice] safe," he told the newspaper.

Even more pertinently, Aaron David Miller, a long-term Middle East policy adviser to both Republican and Democratic administrations, delivered a damning verdict in a recent issue of Foreign Policy magazine. He wrote bluntly: "Barack Obama has become George W Bush on steroids."

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Reprieve's Clive Stafford Smith: We Are Sleepwalking into the Drone Age, Unaware of the Consequences

While Obama's policies may go down a treat in the US, they are fomenting radicalism abroad, the very policy not only undermining our way of life but provoking an extremist hydra with many more heads.The last time a president indulged in an illegal bombing campaign in the sovereign territory of allies (Richard Nixon in 1969, in Cambodia and Laos), the policy nearly got included in the articles of impeachment. We should remember that history, as the Vietnamese capitalised on the backlash, helping to impose the genocidal Khmer Rouge on Cambodia, and a single-party regime that endures 40 years later in Laos.

Some sane voices penetrate the gloom. Starting last summer, Cameron Munter, Obama's ambassador to Islamabad, was required to give a thumbs up or down assessment of each drone attack on Pakistani turf, as if he were an emperor in the Colosseum. "He didn't realise his main job was to kill people," said a colleague. Munter is quitting his job early this month because his diplomatic mission has been rendered impossible.

The dearth of US domestic criticism is astounding. The last time a president indulged in an illegal bombing campaign in the sovereign territory of allies (Richard Nixon in 1969, in Cambodia and Laos), the policy nearly got included in the articles of impeachment. We should remember that history, as the Vietnamese capitalised on the backlash, helping to impose the genocidal Khmer Rouge on Cambodia, and a single-party regime that endures 40 years later in Laos.

Ultimately, Mitt Romney faces a dilemma: what must a Republican candidate do to outflank the extremism of his Democratic opponent? The rest of us must be concerned as well: we are sleepwalking into the Drone Age, and few people are debating the dire consequences.

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