Drone Targets Reflect Local Animosities, Not Threats to US

John Glaser, April 08, 2013

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the first ever CIA drone strike in Pakistan was not aimed at an al-Qaeda operative plotting to attack the US or US forces in Afghanistan, but rather targeted a man the Pakistani government didn’t like.

Mr. [Nek] Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.

The bombing killed Nek Muhammad “and several others, including two boys, ages 10 and 16.”

nek_mohammad

Nek Muhammad

This account serves as further proof that the US rarely knows who it kills in the drone war. Targets are often chosen through a shoddy process of human intelligence and frequently reflect local animosities as opposed to actual threats to the US.

Killing enemies of the state also happens in Yemen. Last year, The Los Angeles Times reported that “the distinction may be blurring between operations targeting militants who want to attack Americans and those aimed at fighters seeking to overthrow the Yemeni government.”

For drone war advocates, the legitimacy of the targeted killing program rests on the notion that those targets pose a threat to America and its forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Careful observers have known for a very long time that this standard is not met.

“Signature strikes” allow the CIA to bomb groups of people exhibiting “suspicious behavior,” a loosely-defined judgement that gives the agency carte blanche to kill whoever it pleases. And once the victims are dead, all military-age males are automatically considered terrorists unless posthumously proven innocent.

According to the leaked Justice Department legal memo, the Obama administration dropped the requirement of “imminence” to justify the use of force.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

And all that’s necessary to decide on a target is for high-level US officials to say the targets are “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.” And we know in at least some cases, like when the CIA does Islamabad a favor, not even this standard is met.




12 Responses to “Drone Targets Reflect Local Animosities, Not Threats to US”

  1. [...] Drone Targets Reflect Local Animosities [...]

  2. Useful information ..I am very happy to read this.. thanks for giving us this useful information. Fantastic walk-through.

  3. [...] FULL REPORT BY JOHN GLASER @ ANTIWAR [...]

  4. [...] which confirmed that the very first drone strike in Pakistan, in 2004, targeted an individual that posed no threat to the US, but was instead a local rabble-rouser that the Pakistani government wanted gone. So the CIA did [...]

  5. Costs pay self shell out human creature a fair calm easy concerned gap up the lope of the manufacture a heap out of a molehill.

  6. [...] officials,” and has rejected the stipulation of disrupting an imminent threat of attack as a prerequisite to dropping bombs on large groups of unidentified [...]

  7. When we readily capitulate to and normalize that the 'Leader of the Free World' is our Judge, Jury, and Executioner, then you know that dictatorship is taking hold. The death-knell of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" rings somberly and unmistakably when being a suspect is enough warrant for your extra-judicial execution or targeted killing.

    Citizens, be wary of demo-Crazies usurping our Democracies: Have the drones started flying over our heads yet – in our communities, towns and cities?

  8. [...] Only recently have we begun to learn of the shady covert drone war. Mark Mazzeti’s recent The Way of the Knife, details the beginning: the United States carried out executions on behalf of the corrupt Pakistani government, performing a drone strike to kill Nek Muhammed in exchange for access to the airspace. [...]

  9. hanks for making such a cool post.

  10. I really do not truly have much to say in response, I only wanted to comment to reply great work.

  11. it is great it gives me that much more enjoyable, good luck

  12. you always bring everyone the most interesting and useful, I like it all, thank you.