(MintPress) – The latest U.S. drone attack in Yemen reportedly killed three suspected militants on Thursday, sparking riots in Reda, the site of the attack. The strike is the fifth attack in 10 days, continuing a spate of U.S. drone violence in the area. The killings, aimed at eliminating al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, have led to the deaths of at least 170 civilians in Yemen, and more than 1,000 worldwide, in an expanding drone campaign that has proven devastating to local communities in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
From a policy objective, the mass number of civilian casualties has alienated once allied populations and turned public sentiment firmly against the U.S. in their operations targeting al-Qaida. To make matters worse, Obama nominating John Brennan, also referred to as John “the kill list” Brennan, as director of the CIA Monday shows that policies undermining human rights and national sovereignty are likely to continue through the president’s second term.
“If the authorities don’t stop the American attacks then we will occupy the government institutions in the town,” one unidentified protester said during demonstrations on Friday.
The public outcry drew large numbers of tribesmen, carrying rifles. No violence was reported in the demonstrations. Reda, an area in Southern Yemen, was previously the site of a U.S. airstrike in September that killed 10 unarmed civilians, including a 10-year-old child.
Indeed, drone strikes continue to radicalize once pacified populations, not out of sympathy for al-Qaida and their objectives, but out of despair. Even after the ousting of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, Yemen posed little threat to the U.S., as embedded terrorist groups like al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula had barely gained a foothold in the impoverished Arab state.
Now, with indiscriminate attacks killing civilians and combatants alike, anti-American sentiment is increasing.
“Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair,” wrote Ibrahim Mothana, a Yemeni lawyer in a June Op-Ed for the New York Times.
“Robert Grenier, the former head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for al-Qaida like the tribal areas of Pakistan — ‘the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan,’” added Mothana.
Although unmanned aircraft used to strike enemy targets keep American soldiers away from battle zones, the notion that drones are in some way “precise” in strikes against terrorists has been proven false by recent studies in Pakistan, an area suffering a similar onslaught of attacks in recent months.
Professors James Cavallaro of Stanford University and Sarah Knuckey of New York University (NYU) released a groundbreaking report called “Living Under Drones” in October. The investigative piece examines the effect drone strikes are having on civilian populations in Pakistan.
The professors conducted the investigation over two separate trips to Pakistan. The two human rights law professors received special permission from government officials to travel to Waziristan and conduct interviews with 130 residents living in the region.
The findings of the report counter the dominant narrative supported by the Obama administration, namely, “In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.”
However, the findings, based upon nine months of on-the-ground research show that while there are terrorists threatening U.S. national security in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), drone strikes have been a destructive force, alienating allies and killing scores of innocent civilians.
For every legitimate “terrorist” a predators drone kills, 50 civilians are killed, not to mention the hundreds injured, the homes destroyed and the countless civilians continuing to suffer psychological trauma.
This, researchers contend, constitutes a form of collective punishment against a civilian population. The United Nations (U.N.) forbids collective punishment against civilian populations, a central tenant of the Fourth Convention of the Geneva Convention drafted in 1949.
These findings have not gone unnoticed, as human rights organizations, including CodePink, continue to speak out against U.S. drone operations.
Growing grassroots resistance
CodePink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement has lead the way in resistance to the drones, taking a delegation of 30 activists to Pakistan in October.
The solidarity trip successfully built ties with Pakistani peace organizations demonstrating against U.S. drone strikes.
“I think one of the most significant things we saw was that the drone strikes are incredibly counter-productive, they are breeding anti-Americanism and creating resentment throughout Pakistan as people are seeing their brothers and sisters blown to bits,” said Alli McCracken, a national CODEPINK coordinator in a recent MintPress News statement.
“Not only are we killing civilians, we refuse to acknowledge that it is happening. This has become a recruiting tool for the Taliban,” adds McCracken.
On Monday, CodePink continued its protest against the expanding drone operations by opposing President Obama’s appointment of John Brennan as the new director of the CIA.
Brennan previously served as an adviser helping to craft “the kill list,” a secretive list authorizing the illegal assassination of suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens.
Although McCracken notes there is a “vacuum of knowledge and leadership on this issue,” CodePink members are actively putting this topic front and center through educational outreach. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, authored a groundbreaking book, “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” raising grassroots awareness through a 100-city book tour in 2012.
One of the biggest issues going forward is the possibility of mass drone surveillance by police departments. Pressured by General Atomics, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other drone manufacturers, Congress may open U.S. airspace to full drone surveillance by 2015, a move decried by rights groups as a flagrant violation of civil liberties.
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