President “Violating the principles of the Western world”
July 26, 2012
British and Danish politicians have spoken out in disgust at the US policy of drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen, calling it targeted assassination.
“It’s terrible,” said Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the foreign policy spokesperson for Radikale, the Danish Social Liberal Party.
“The United States has no right to carry out these types of executions of suspected political adversaries. It contravenes international law.” Petersen said in an interview with the Politiken newspaper.
Peterson added that Obama was mirroring terrorist activity by adhering to the policy. ”It is tantamount to terrorism where you also kill people for political motives in someone else’s territory.” Peterson said.
Another Danish lawmaker, Soren Pind, of the Venstre party, Denmark’s opposition party, also blasted Obama. In an interview with Ræson magazine, Pind said “I criticised George Bush for combining the presidency with something we could view as torture. But what Obama is doing is combining the presidency with assassination. In reality it is much worse. Obama is completely ignoring the western world’s principles, and in the long run it will be detrimental,”
Officials from another far left party in Denmark, Enhedslisten, also weighed in, saying they would push the issue in the Danish parliament’s foreign policy committee.
Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Sovndal was less critical but still intimated that the government was displeased with the US policy of drone strikes.“I am not prepared to comment further than saying that we do not use drones ourselves and that international rules must be adhered to,” said Sovndal.
Denmark has traditionally been a strong ally to the US. However, Ole Wæver, political scientist at the University of Copenhagen notes “Obama has used up his goodwill account…There has been until now broad political agreement that we stood shoulder to shoulder with the US, but people are slowly realising that the world order is changing.”
Neither the US government, nor the US Embassy in Denmark has responded to the criticism.
Meanwhile, in Britain, a group of twelve parliamentarians are reported to have penned a letter to Obama demanding that drone strikes in Pakistan are halted.
The International Herald Tribune reports that the officials contend that the strikes are only serving to fuel hatred of the US and provide justification for future terrorist activities and that too many innocent people are being killed as a result of the attacks. The letter also notes that the strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Earlier this week, it was reported that the incoming head of Pakistan’s intelligence network plans to demand that the US halt the drone strikes and let Pakistan deal with weeding out militants.
In related developments, a UN report released this week states that US drone aircraft over Somalia pose a significant danger to air traffic and may also violate an arms embargo against the country.
As we reported Monday, there is a huge growing movement in Pakistan speaking out against US aggression in the country.
One prominent voice is that of Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) who recently slammed the US policy of targeting militants in Pakistan and elsewhere with unmanned drone strikes, calling the practice “immoral and insane”.
The Obama administration has been heavily criticized for moving to block the release of information relating to its overseas drone assassination programme, and will not even acknowledge that it exists, despite countless public references to the programme and the proven existence of an official “kill list”.
It is common knowledge that the Obama administration has exponentially increased the use of drone missile attacks in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The president has referred to the programme several times in public, as have officials such as counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.
Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a major piece on the programme, revealing that the White House has asserted the right to carry out state-sponsored assassination anywhere in the world without having to provide any evidence or go through any legal process.
Furthermore, the Times revealed that Obama adopted a policy that “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”
The administration merely has to state that the target is a terrorist and it doesn’t matter whether they are an American citizen or not, as we saw in the case of American-born Anwar al-Awlaki and his son, who were both killed last year.
In December of last year, Obama administration lawyers reaffirmed their backingfor state sponsored assassination, claiming that “U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets” and do not have the right to any legal protection against being marked for summary execution.
During a CBS 60 Minutes interview in January, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta revealed that Obama himself personally approves the policy to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism without trial on a case by case basis.
Perhaps the real reason that the administration wants the details of the programme kept under wraps is that, as reported by Propublica recently, the programme is potentially much bigger in scope than anyone had previously thought.
The administration’s figures do not add up, they are chock full of contradictions and discrepancies, and there can be little doubt that there have been many many more civilian deaths as a result of drone attacks than have been publicly acknowledged.
Experts, including UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns, as well as Pakistan’s UN ambassador in Geneva, Zamir Akram, have described the drone assassination programme as a violation of the international legal system, saying that some attacks may constitute war crimes.
Akram, who noted that US drone strikes had killed more than 1,000 civilians in Pakistan, also said “We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the ‘war against terror’. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.
Many also contend that the attacks infringe the national sovereignty of Pakistan and constitute an act of war.
In 2010, a report by Washington think tank The New America Foundation found that 32% of the more than 1,200 people killed since 2004 in Pakistan, or around 1 in 3, were innocent bystanders rather than dangerous terrorists.
While the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has stated that the Pakistani government is actively facilitating the attacks by providing bases from which to launch the drones, Pakistani authorities have consistently voiced opposition to cross border missile strikes, which have been ongoing for years, but have accelerated since day one of Obama’s presidency. During Obama’s first year in office, there were 53 reported drone missile attacks; more than were carried out during the entirety of George W. Bush’s two four year terms in office.
Reports from 2009, drawn up by Pakistani authorities, indicated that close to 700 civilians had already perished, with just 14 wanted Al Qaeda leaders killed in the attacks.
The ACLU estimates that US drone strikes have killed as many as 4,000 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2002. Of those, a significant proportion were civilians.
Last week it was revealed that the families of three US citizens killed in drone strikes in Yemen last year – including al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaqi – have filed a civil lawsuit against top US officials.
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