UN investigator warns US on use of drones

Nothing succeeds like success.
Of course this is when bottom-feeding “law professors” tend to make their appearance.

UN investigator warns US on use of drones

Associated Press, Tue Oct 27, 9:16 pm ET
[i]"UNITED NATIONS – A U.N. human rights investigator warned the United States Tuesday that its use of unmanned warplanes to carry out targeted executions may violate international law.

Philip Alston said that unless the Obama administration explains the legal basis for targeting particular individuals and the measures it is taking to comply with international humanitarian law which prohibits arbitrary executions, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.”

Alston, the U.N. Human Rights Council’s investigator on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, raised the issue of U.S. Predator drones in a report to the General Assembly’s human rights committee and at a news conference afterwards, saying he has become increasingly concerned at the dramatic increase in their use, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since June."[/i]…excert.


They work…quite well and quite accurately.

July 10, 2009
“U.S. Drones Have al Qaeda On the Run:
Strikes by CIA Drones to al Qaeda Sanctuaries in Pakistan Are Working”

i “It’s not often the enemy tells you something you’re doing - strikes by CIA drones against al Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan - is working.

But in this document posted on the Web, a top al Qaeda commander writes: “The harm is alarming. The matter is very grave.”

Both senior government officials and outside experts say it is an extraordinary confession, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.

“It exposes for the first time a level of paranoia and a level of self-consciousness and a lack of confidence in al Qaeda’s leadership in their propaganda that we just haven’t seen up until now,” said Nicholas Schmidle, the author of “To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan.”

In the past year, the CIA has flown more than 50 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing half of al Qaeda’s top leaders and hundreds of its fighters. One senior official said the central leadership of al Qaeda is under more pressure now than at any time since the bombing of Tora Bora in 2001. The document blames the accuracy of the strikes on “spies … (who) have spread throughout the land like locusts … So many brave commanders have been snatched away … so many hidden homes have been leveled.”

“The accuracy of these drone strikes has been so remarkable that there’s been no - there’s not even been an attempt to al Qaeda or the Taliban to offer a counter narrative to say that no there were actually women and children that were killed. There’s been nothing but silence,” said Schmidle…”[/i]
cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/ … 1547.shtml


July 29, 2008
“Officials: Al Qaeda’s Mad Scientist Killed:
CIA Drone Targeted Chemical Weapons Expert Abu Khabab Al-Masri On Afghanistan-Pakistan Border”

cbsnews.com/stories/2008/07/ … 1490.shtml

ROEs (Rules of Engagement) from the UN…yes…lets ask Rwanda about the success of the blue helmet posse.

Nothing succeeds like blowing up wedding parties and killing scores of innocent civilians.

[quote]The use of unmanned drones as weapons of war in conflicts around the world has been called into question by one of Britain’s most senior judges. Lord Bingham, until last year the senior law lord, said that some weapons were so “cruel as to be beyond the pale of human tolerance”.

In an interview with the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Lord Bingham compared drones, which have killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza, with cluster bombs and landmines. . .

Last month the US admitted to 26 civilian deaths in a series of drone attacks that took place in May. In those attacks Afghan officials put the death toll at 140, significantly higher than the US claims.

Last week Israel was accused of using missile-firing drones to unlawfully kill at least 29 Palestinian civilians during the Gaza Strip war.

Despite having advanced surveillance equipment, drone operators failed to exercise proper caution “as required by the laws of war” in verifying their targets were combatants, said Human Rights Watch. . .

International lawyers also argue that air strikes using drones are state-sanctioned assassinations where the targeted suspected terrorist has no opportunity to defend the case against him. . .

The Predator, and its successor, the Raptor, is a remote-controlled aircraft system which first came into use in 1995. . . .

Two years ago a Predator fired a missile into a wedding party in Afghanistan, killing at least 30 civilians, including children. . . [/quote]
independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho … 32756.html

30 dead civilians including many children in one erroneous strike – that sounds pretty bad.

But then again, they are only a bunch of brown-skinned savages; they should be grateful that we are helping them out.

"they were shooting at us, honest. "

It’s hard to tell exactly what’s what on the ground in the Middle East from the comfort of a control room in Nebraska.

still, actual pilots right there on the spot have made just as many mistakes, so don’t blame the use of drones necessarily.

Does the UN have a problem with the US using drones against Somali pirates too?

U.S. Deploys Drones Against Somali Pirates

Some estimates are as high as 50 civilians killed for every al Qaeda guy they get.

Yea, yea, yea…

And from someone far wiser and level-headed:

The underlying question for all of this is whether or not we are pursuing a law-enforcement model or a war model. If it’s law-enforcement, then we shouldn’t be using predators to kill senior AQ guys, but instead send in police-like forces to arrest everyone, try them, and if found guilty, throw them in prison. If we are pursuing a war model, and you are doing it correctly, then the enemy doesn’t get a chance to defend him/herself.

Furthermore, there isn’t such a thing as a “arbitrary extrajudicial execution” in war so long as the enemy isn’t under your control. If there was, then any time you fired your weapon and killed an enemy, but didn’t give him a trial first, you would be guilty of extrajudicial executions. If he surrenders and you shoot him in the head, it’s an execution and illegal. However, the AQ guys weren’t under the US control and so it isn’t any more illegal than the use of snipers in warfare or teaching pilots to get on someone’s six when they fire off a missile.

[quote=“Hot Air commentary”]
If I set out to write satire, I couldn’t do it this well. Suddenly, killing one’s enemy has become a summary execution. Would an arrest be considered a mugging?

Note too that while AFP mentions collateral civilian deaths, Alston doesn’t make that distinction. The UN is concerned with whether the US has justification for killing Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, not whether we got the wrong targets. “Summary executions” mean that we have not provided these poor dears with proper due process to determine whether they should have been killed at all. It takes the law-enforcement approach to its natural, absurd conclusion, which is that armies are really nothing more than police officers with cooler weapons.

In a rational world, this would prove the utter uselessness of the UN in dealing with terrorism and terrorist networks. In the Obama administration, however, I suspect that they’re already attempting to justify themselves to Alston, or worse, modifying an effective program that kills terrorist leaders and disrupts their plans to satisfy “international law” that forces us to act against our own interests in war. The UN and a large number of Americans seem to forget that this is a war, not a domestic organized-crime problem, and that war means killing your enemies on the battlefield before they do the same to you, not finding a way to get them into court.

If this farce helped convince the Obama administration of that, it would be worth the laugh. Unfortunately, this is not an administration capable of — or inclined towards — telling idiots from multilateral organizations to pound sand.


The underlying question is how much collateral damage is okay. Are drones any better than land mines or cluster bombs?

Yes, I believe they are. And the same has to be said for IEDs with a triggerman. Both legitimate weapons, I feel.

Suicide bombers or timer bombs blowing up marketplaces and random restaurants, on the other hand, are an outright abomination and the perpetrators and their support networks and their fanclubs and their powerbase deserve to be eliminated from the face of the earth, root and branch.

My goodness, dearie me… every time a drone hits an al Qaeda figure, he just happens to be at a wedding… what are the chances… and yet it happens again and again and again… well just EVERY single time… and of course there have been independent verifications of the innocent civilians killed all in their wedding clothes … no doubt… my goodness… Las Vegas bookies should take bets on this… seems like a sure win… a drone attack and 50 innocent civilians dead… why it seems almost uncannily like the hand of God… otherwise HOW could this happen EACH and EVERY time… I am scratching my head… of course, one has to wonder why so many people are getting married in remote mountain locations… but then again… the scenery IS beautiful.

[quote=“urodacus”]Yes, I believe they are. And the same has to be said for IEDs with a triggerman. Both legitimate weapons, I feel.

Suicide bombers or timer bombs blowing up marketplaces and random restaurants, on the other hand, are an outright abomination and the perpetrators and their support networks and their fanclubs and their powerbase deserve to be eliminated from the face of the earth, root and branch.[/quote]

I concur. IED’s with triggerman are the same category as a textbook ambush using conventional weapons. You use the element of surprise to catch the enemy unaware, launch the ambush while they are in the kill zone and attempt to eliminate them. A trigger born IED requires someone to detonate it, so unlike a “dumb” weapon like landmine, it’s not as likely to kill some kids playing soccer as a landmine is.

What’s the problem with cluster munitions though? That not all the clusters detonate upon hitting the ground?

Cluster bombs and other multiwarhead munitions tend not to all go off at once, and you end up with a whole lot of UXO lying around that then are effectively landmines, which are now forbidden.

they’re trying to make smart cluster bombs now that work as a radio-linked minefield for a period and detonate after that time has elapsed. this supposedly makes them more reliable and less likely to have any civilian casualties, but again, the more bomblets you ave, the greater the chance that some malfunction and then you have a landmine again. even worse, they’re more attractive than a landmine and actually attract kids. one example was their use ten years ago when the yellow bomblets were mistaken for yellow MRE (food rations) which were also dropped in the area at other times.

and yes, Fred Smith, the sheer number of folks having weddings is staggering. maybe the AQ targets attend weddings on the same basis as politicians in Taiwan: you know, you gain face by having the local big man stop by your wedding, and a wedding is not complete without a few sleeveless black jackets.

The Predator War

If we kill 1,000 civilians in order to get 20 or 30 al-Qaeda bosses, is it worth it? Or is it making things worse. Getting more people to hate us.

MT -
The “wedding party story” was debunked a few months after it occurred. As a matter of fact, it was discussed on this forum with supporting info presented by myself and several other. If I remember correctly, Fred Smith was also a part of the group discussing it. But thats OK. Even your presented article, Yes I read it - thanks, show how effective Predator and UAV strikes have been in surgically removing selected enemy personnel.

Honestly, this thread has taken (hijack?) an unexpected turn.
The reason I posted it was to focus on discussion of the UN comments and its possible effect on US ROE procedure.
Should this position by the UN be regarded as interferrence in US policy?
Will it be regarded as such?

Also, the UN hotel was hit by a bomb attack in thelast day or so. Would a UAV reconnaissance program have stopped this?
Would the UN respond to an alert from a UAV recon team notifying them of an imminent attack?
Would this make them…“hypocrites” if they did respond to the warning?

The worth of the UAVs in both recon and attack has been clearly shown. Effective and very low in collateral damage. Considering this is an non-uniformed enemy that uses civilian shields.

The UAV’s are obviously very effective. And they are targeting the enemy. But there should be a legal basis for doing so. I am sure that in the vast majority of cases, the army guys controlling the drones are doing so with the best of (warlike) intentions. That is, they are trying to kill bona fide real deal killers of Americans. But, the people they are targeting are not in an official war zone. They are not on the battlefield. And they are mixed in with civilians. So I think that saying that there needs to be a legal basis for the killings is ethically valid. No one said there has to be a court case. Maybe they just need a vetting of the facts by some independent body that someone legally deserves to be on a “kill on sight” list, and the criteria for doing so i.e. allowable risk factor to civilians. There should always be some legal oversight of forces authorized to kill. That oversight shouldn’t be a straitjacket to those forces, but it shouldn’t be a rubber stamp either.

What kind of independent body do you think should be used? Something like the UN would never work for obvious reasons of violation of US Sovereignty and that opponents would try to veto and obstruct at every opportunity. Of course this is under the assumption that there A) isn’t a legal basis to do this (there is) and B) that there isn’t any oversight (there is). The UN speech has some unrealistic idea that the US should be using a law enforcement model for counter-terrorism instead of a military one. The goals are different. Military model is to eliminate AQ or seriously cripple them. The law enforcement one is to grab the guy, throw him on trial, and stick him in a prison for the rest of his natural life.

The US is following a policy that arose as a response to terrorism in the 1980’s and was put forth in a speech, and the fall issue of the Military Law Journal, in 1989 by Abraham Sofaer. The policy has never been repudiated, that the US in pursuit of self defense, and can carry out targeted executions of terrorists.

Terrorists aren’t considered “protected persons” under the Geneva convention because they aren’t civilians. There are specific things you cannot do to protected persons. Yet they don’t meet the requirements to be considered belligerent forces because they don’t wear uniforms to distinguish themselves as active combatants. This means that they don’t need to be in a recognized, official war zone to be targeted. If they were legitimate belligerent forces, they would be covered under the Laws of War (and the Geneva conventions).

Now you point out that there are civilians there, which is a legitimate concern. The pertinant text is in the Geneva conventions 4th Convention, Part 3, Article 1, Section 28, “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”. Basically, it reinforces that terrorists can be pursued in any jurisdiction, like pirates.

A more recent white paper on the subject has been written by Kenneth Anderson, of Stanford University is available here. I’ll include an excerpt of a paragraph or two.

As far as your issue with oversight, the program is run by the CIA. It has US Congressional oversight as all CIA programs have. Unfortunately the documents that would answer questions about how the vetting goes are classified and will remain as such. That means you won’t ever get a clear and detailed explanation of how they evaluate the criteria and the risk factor for civilians.

cnn.com/2009/OPINION/10/29/b … index.html
It’s hard to get good data on the number of civilians killed. From the CNN article, estimates are from 90% to 10% civilians killed. The CNN guy settles on about 30% or 200-300. Hard to tell if that is enough to call it inhumane.

I understand that the issues are legally and administratively complex. The US doesn’t want to accept UN oversight or even moral brow-beating; the CIA and other IA’s have to be secretive; the enemy is cunning so methods to counter the enemy must be even more so; the response time parameters for hitting these top cockroach terrorist scumbags are very limited, etc. And we don’t live in a perfect world. Yeah yeah. But raising moral issues about killing is a good idea. Legality is the often best way to address them. In the past, the CIA has used assassination as a weapon. And Guantanamo and the renditions were other examples of the military seeking to be above civilian law. I think this kind of thing needs to be watched carefully and controlled. Let the intelligence / military professionals due what they are good at. But keep an eye on them.

No such weapon has ever been invented, which is a credit to the tolerance levels of our species.