Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Jan. 22 condemned US drone attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law. Khar stated that the drone attacks are "counterproductive" and that she plans to discuss the issue with the US and its ambassador to Pakistan. Earlier this month, retired general Stanley McChrystal expressed similar concerns cautioning against the overuse of drone attacks and stating that their use breeds resentment around the world. US President Barack Obama, who personally approves each drone strike against suspected terrorists, is expected to sign off on a manual which will establish rules for the administration's targeted killing program. However, the administration's counter-terrorism manual will exempt drone strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan from being bound by the new rules.
A new report by Amnesty International documents a "raft of gross and deeply disturbing abuses" committed by both Islamist rebels and Yemeni government forces during their struggle for the control of the southern region of Abyan in 2011 and 2012, and called for an urgent inquiry. The report, "Conflict in Yemen: Abyan’s Darkest Hour," examines abuses by Ansar al-Sharia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) when they controlled the governorate of Abyan and other areas in the south of Yemen between February 2011 and June 2012, including public summary killings, crucifixion, amputation and flogging.
Guantánamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri on Oct. 23 boycotted his pretrial hearing at the facility. Al-Nashiri is accused of bombing the USS Cole while it was in port in Yemen in October 2000. Al-Nashiri objected to the use of belly chains while he was brought from his cell to the courtroom for the proceedings. Navy officials have stated that while belly chains are used when moving certain detainees within the facility, they would not have been used on al-Nashiri before this week's hearing. The hearing was to determine if Yemen was at war with the US at the time of the bombing, a decision that will be used to determine al-Nashiri's status as an enemy combatant.
Well, exactly what we feared is happening. Protests against the stupid Islamophobic "film" spread to Afghanistan Sept. 16, with hundreds of students from Kabul University marching, blocking roads and chanting "death to America!" There was no violence, but protesters in Herat burned a US flag and pictures of Barack Obama. (AFP, Sept. 16) Meanwhile, the Taliban launched an audacious attack on a British base, Camp Bastion in Helmand province, killing two US Marines there—and astutely claimed they were doing it in retaliation for the stupid "film." "The aim of this attack was revenge against Americans for the anti-Prophet movie," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf said. (Radio Australia, Sept. 16; VOA, Sept. 15)
Now isn't this interesting. Keane Bhatt of the Manufacturing Contempt blog on the website of the venerable North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) calls out the mainstream media, e.g. The Economist and the Los Angeles Times, for hypocrisy in pointing out that Rafael Correa's Ecuador, where Julian Assange is seeking asylum, has a less than stellar record on press freedom. By contrast, Bhatt notes, no eyebrows were raised when Emilio Palacio, an editor at the Guayaquil daily El Universo who was convicted of libel against Correa in Ecuador, fled to Miami last year—despite the fact that the USA doesn't have a stellar record on press freedom either. Bhatt points to the case of Sami al-Hajj, the Al Jazeera cameraman who was imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay for over six years before being released without charge. He also points to Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a Yemeni journalist imprisoned on dubious charges of al-Qaeda collaboration after reporting on US missile strikes. According to Jeremy Scahill in The Nation, Obama pressured the Yemeni regime to keep him locked up.
Our hopes that with this eleventh anniversary of 9-11 the world was finally moving on from the dystopian dialectic of jihad-versus-GWOT have sure been dashed over the past few days. Since the 11th itself saw twin clashes at the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate Benghazi, violence and protests ostensibly sparked by the Islamophobic "film trailer" (for a film that likely doesn't even exist) have now spread to Yemen, Tunisia, Iraq and Iran. The US has dispatched two destroyers armed with Cruise missiles to the coast of Libya, as well as a special Marines unit called the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) to protect the diplomatic corps there, and an FBI team to investigate the Benghazi attack that left dead the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, two Navy SEALS and a computer technician. The affair has notoriously become a political football at home, with Romney baiting Obama for "apologizing" for American power, even as Obama wields ultra-nationalist rhetoric about how "We are the one indispensible power in the world." (Pretty out of wack, eh?) The White House even officially disavowed a perfectly sensible statement issued by the embassy in Cairo condemning the film as the work of "misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The capitulation came after Charles Krauthammer baited on Fox News: "That's a hostage statement. That's a mob of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Egypt, forcing the United States into making a statement essentially of apology, on 9-11 of all days, for something of which we are not responsible." This despite the fact (although its is unclear that Krauthammer knew it) that the statement was issued before the embassy was mobbed. Oh well, so much for moving on. (Al Jazeera, WP, CNN, Sept. 13; CBS, ABC Political Punch, PolitiFact, Sept. 12)
Yemeni Guantánamo Bay detainee Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif died over the weekend at a hospital on the US Navy base after guards found him unconscious in his cell Sept. 8. Latif's identification was originally withheld until the US military could notify his family and his home country's government. The guards who found Latif unconscious in his cell at the US detention facility performed first aid and brought him to a hospital on the US Navy base to perform extensive life saving measures. These were unsuccessful, and doctors at the hospital pronounced Latif dead. This marks the ninth detainee to have died in custody at Guantánamo.
Noah Shachtman, writing for Wired magazine's Danger Room national security blog Sept. 5, notes that while the Democrats are partying in Charlotte, and patting themselves on the back for the death of Osama bin Laden, the drone war in Yemen has gone into "overdrive"—to little notice in the US media.
29 dead in a little over a week. Nearly 200 gone this year. The White House is stepping up its campaign of drone attacks in Yemen, with four strikes in eight days. And not even the slaying of 10 civilians over the weekend seems to have slowed the pace in the United States' secretive, undeclared war...