by Joe Scarry
The press announced a flurry of drone killings in Yemen over the April 19/20 weekend — that is, while the rest of us were observing Easter — and just as with U.S. drone killings in Pakistanand Somalia, the U.S. modus operandiwas on full display. (See “U.S. Drones and Yemeni Forces Kill Qaeda-Linked Fighters, Officials Say”)
Numerous unnamed U.S. officials are alluded to in press coverage, but all official U.S. sources (the CIA, the Pentagon) decline comment. Reports are full of red herrings – references to Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen (who were not the targets of these particular attacks, however); mention of past attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen (which the U.S. does not connect with the events of the weekend, however); Barack Obama’s May, 2013, speech on national security (but what relevance could that have to the past weekend’s anonymous strikes?); etc.
Nonetheless, the New York Times account can assert that the strikes hit “militants” linked to Al Qaeda — or rather, “linked to Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.”
The White House referred questions to the government of Yemen, with whom the U.S. has “a strong collaborative relationship” — which is not to say the U.S. government will openly endorse, affirm, or share responsibility for any of the acts the Yemen government claims to have carried out.
What is new is that one government — the Yemeni one — did state affirmatively that they killed people: “55 militants” — “militants whowereplanningto attack civilian and military facilities.”
The U.S. government’s scarecrow act — pointing the finger at the Yemeni government — is completely unconvincing, and the Yemeni government’s statements are completely unsatisfying.
Luckily, a drumbeat is growing in U.S. courts and in the U.S. Congress to force the U.S. Executive branch to come clean on its drone killings.
The U.S. has a modus operandi for conducting military strikes while slipping past any genuine public accountability. It’s worth a look at the Tuesday, October 29, 2013, New York Times account of a drone strike in Somalia the previous day: “Pentagon Says Shabab Bomb Specialist Is Killed in Missile Strike in Somalia.” It’s a case study in what’s wrong with the U.S. drone wars.
(See October 28 in Somalia: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)
A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people – including Sangeen Zadran — a “senior militant commander” who was “implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier.”
(See September 5 in Pakistan: Another Day, Another Drone Killing)
Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have now submitted a bill calling for drone transparency — the “Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act” (otherwise known as the “come clean on drone killing” bill). Many groups are calling for its passage, including Amnesty International, Arab American Institute, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for Constitutional Rights, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, National Security Network, Open Society Policy Center, Peace Action West, Reprieve, and Win Without War.
(See REAL Progressives Demand that the U.S. Come Clean on Drone Killings )