Panetta: The Drone Strikes Will Continue Until Morale Improves

For years, the United States has danced around the fact that it has repeatedly enter the sovereign territory of other countries with drone attacks and in some cases small unit attacks without the permission of countries like Pakistan. Such acts violate international law and would be viewed by the United States as an act of war if committed on U.S. territory. This week,Defense Secretary Leon Panetta finally responded directly to those objections and said that the attacks would continue unabated. Panetta essentially stated that we can invade other nations because we can and that countries will have to come to accept that — using the same concept as “floggings will continue on ship until morale improves.”

Panetta insisted this is really not them (other countries) but us. Speaking in India, he proclaimed “This is about our sovereignty as well.” As for Pakistan, which has repeatedly objected to attacks on its territory, Panetta said “It’s a complicated relationship, often times frustrating, often times difficult. They have provided some cooperation. There are other times when frankly that cooperation is not there.” Strangely, we would not view the relationship as complicated if Mexico sent drones into Texas to take out suspects or landed Mexican special forces in Arizona to kill enemies. We would treat it as a matter of war.

Panetta has finally made “American exceptionalism” official policy. We do these things simply because we can; because we are the United States. From torture to military tribunals to hit lists, the United States is above the legal standards that we impose on others. The greatest danger is that our hypocrisy abroad is turning into hypocrisy at home where we continue to claim to be the “land of the free” while stripping citizens of basic rights and expanding unchecked presidential and police powers.

Obama has expanded drone attacks to an unprecedented level while expanding his claimed authority to kill citizens without a charge or trial. Now the most common image of the United States abroad is not our Constitution but our drones. For many people around the world, Panetta’s speech will be viewed as adding unrestained arrogance to unrestrained power.

Source: ABC

297 thoughts on “Panetta: The Drone Strikes Will Continue Until Morale Improves”


    UN to investigate civilian deaths from US drone strikes

    Special rapporteur on counter-terror operations condemns Barack Obama’s failure to establish effective monitoring process

    Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent, Thursday 25 October 2012 13.07 EDT

    The United Nations is to set up a dedicated investigations unit in Geneva to examine the legality of drone attacks in cases where civilians are killed in so-called ‘targeted’ counter-terrorism operations.

    The announcement was made by Ben Emmerson QC, a UN special rapporteur, in a speech to Harvard law school in which he condemned secret rendition and waterboarding as crimes under international law.

    His forthright comments, directed at both US presidential candidates, will be seen as an explicit challenge to the prevailing US ideology of the global war on terror.

    Earlier this summer, Emmerson, who monitors counter-terrorism for the UN, called for effective investigations into drone attacks. Some US drone strikes in Pakistan – where those helping victims of earlier attacks or attending funerals were killed – may amount to war crimes, Emmerson warned.

    In his Harvard speech, he revealed: “If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms … then it may in the last resort be necessary for the UN to act.

    “Together with my colleague Christof Heyns, [the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings], I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [UN] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks.”

    The unit will also look at “other forms of targeted killing conducted in counter-terrorism operations, in which it is alleged that civilian casualties have been inflicted, and to seek explanations from the states using this technology and the states on whose territory it is used. [It] will begin its work early next year and will be based in Geneva.”

    Security officials who took part in waterboarding interrogations or secret rendition removals should be made accountable for their actions and justice, Emmerson added.

    “The time has come,” he said, “for the international community to agree minimum standard principles for investigating such allegations and holding those responsible to account.

    “Let us be clear on this: secret detention is unlawful as a matter of international law. Waterboarding is always torture. Torture is an international crime of universal jurisdiction. The torturer, like the pirate before him, is regarded in international law as the enemy of all mankind. There is therefore a duty on states to investigate and to prosecute acts of torture.”

    The US stance of conducting counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaida or other groups anywhere in the world because it is deemed to be an international conflict was indefensible, he maintained.

    “The global war paradigm has done immense damage to a previously shared international consensus on the legal framework underlying both international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” Emmerson said. “It has also given a spurious justification to a range of serious human rights and humanitarian law violations.

    “The [global] war paradigm was always based on the flimsiest of reasoning, and was not supported even by close allies of the US. The first-term Obama administration initially retreated from this approach, but over the past 18 months it has begun to rear its head once again, in briefings by administration officials seeking to provide a legal justification for the drone programme of targeted killing in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia …

    “[It is] alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.”

    Emmerson singled out both President Obama and the Republican challenger Mitt Romney for criticism. “It is perhaps surprising that the position of the two candidates on this issue has not even featured during their presidential elections campaigns, and got no mention at all in Monday night’s foreign policy debate.

    “We now know that the two candidates are in agreement on the use of drones. But the issue of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques is an one which, according to the record, continues to divide them.

    “I should make it absolutely clear that my mandate does not see to eye to eye with the Obama administration on a range of issues – not least the lack of transparency over the drone programme. But on this issue the president has been clear since he took office that water-boarding is torture that it is contrary to American values and that it would stop.

    “… But Governor Romney has said that he does not believe that waterboarding is torture. He has said that he would allow enhanced interrogation techniques that go beyond those now permitted by the army field manual, and his security advisers have recommended that he rescind the existing restrictions.”

    The Cambodian dictator Pol Pot, he pointed out, used the technique. “Anyone who is in doubt about whether waterboarding is torture should visit Tuol Sleng, the infamous S-21 detention facility operated by the Khymer Rouge in Phnom Penh.

    “Over a period of four years 14,000 people were systematically tortured and killed there. It is now a genocide museum. And right there, in the middle of the central torturing room, is the apparatus used by Pol Pot’s security officials for waterboarding.”

  2. Who’s gonna call the guys in white uniforms?
    Haven’t known him long, but this seems strange.

    Hear me Messpo? Heard any strange noises? Are they sending radio waves against your brain.
    Are you going to be our next President?

    Get a grip or get help.

  3. Gene: “In all fairness, that is not what I read Bob as saying. He’s decrying your apparent flexibility in applying the rule of law, due process and the definition of what constitutes war.”


    He’s been consistently misrepresenting my arguments lately. Furthermore, he’s not being flexible with law or morality, he has repeatedly claimed he’s entitled to disregard both entirely.

  4. Elaine M, your question: “The question then is: how many innocents is it acceptable to kill to take down one suspected terrorist?”

    If the innocent is ME, it is not acceptable to kill ANY innocents to take down one suspected terrorist (or ten, or a hundred…) —

    But if a bunch of people who are NOT ME are killed to take down one suspected terrorist, then they were NOT INNOCENT. They might have been THUGS!

    Get OVER it!!

  5. How Many Innocent Deaths Are Acceptable to Kill A Suspected Terrorist?
    Jesselyn Radack
    June 6, 2012

    U.S. officials tell us that a drone strike has killed al Qaeda’s #2 operative – Abu Yahya al-Libi:

    One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Mr. Libi as one of Al Qaeda’s “most experienced and versatile leaders,” and said he had “played a critical role in the group’s planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts.”

    U.S. officials also told us the American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was a dangerous terrorist, when it turned out he was a propagandist, and not all that influential in the Middle East.

    Meanwhile, despite Administration officials’ claims that civilian deaths are rare and minimal (one official recently said “in the single digits”), the think tank New America Foundation estimated that since Obama took office, the number of drone deaths in Pakistan alone totaled between 1,456 and 2,372. Certainly these were not all high-level al-Qaeda operatives.

    I can’t help but notice the numbers’ similarity to some of the casualty numbers from the Pentagon or World Trade Center. Obviously, Americans would no doubt agree with me that — though Obama claims the legal authority to do so — it would be morally reprehensible to take down one of the WTC towers with a drone just because an al-Qaeda operative happened to be hiding out in a broom closet.

    The question then is: how many innocents is it acceptable to kill to take down one suspected terrorist?

  6. Naming Those Killed in US Drone Strikes
    By: Kevin Gosztola Friday May 11, 2012

    The Obama administration, Woods finds, is seeking to redefine the definition of “civilian.” This is inevitable, given the fact that the administration is redefining “due process” too.

    In June 2011, counterterrorism chief John Brennan claimed that no civilians had been killed by US drones. George Stephanopoulos, host of “This Week” on ABC, pressed Brennan recently on the idea that no single civilian had been killed. He replied, “What I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed.”

    The language can be explained by highlighting the reality that those supportive of the drone program in the Obama administration see people in countries like Pakisan, Somalia or Yemen, which are constantly experiencing strikes, as combatants or non-combatants. Any non-combatants, who are associating with or are nearby enemy combatants, including family members, are not likely to be considered “innocent” civilians.

    Additionally, terrorists or civilians are legal terms that are meaningless. The administration operates under the mendacious theory that the Authorized Use for Military Force (AUMF) gives the US authority to kill any person that may pose a “threat.” The term “civilian” presumes that citizens of Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen have legal rights to not be subject to extrajudicial assassination if the US decides they are a “threat.” The administration has no respect for the due process rights of citizens, which they might have in their country. The administration responds to concerns about sovereignty and civil liberties with the callow remark that citizens can either face “targeted” or “surgical” drone strikes or a full-blown US military occupation. It is the administration’s position that citizens in these foreign countries should be grateful there exists technology that does not make it necessary for the US to have a greater presence in their country.

    The US wants people to think only “militants” or enemy combatants like Quso are killed. They don’t wish to confirm to news media that others, who are not al Qaeda, are killed. The continuation of the drone program depends on people believing drones do not kill a large number of innocent civilians and can efficiently kill members of al Qaeda and its affiliates. This is why the Bureau estimates “between 170 and 500″ civilians killed have yet to be identified.

    It is why, until activists in the US pushed back, the State Department intended to block Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who had sued the US government for drone strikes in Pakistan, from entering the US to attend an international Drone Summit in Washington, DC. He has represented drone victims in Pakistan and sought to name them, share with the world who they are and force the world to not ignore their deaths.

    Akbar recently submitted constitutional petitions to the High Court in Peshawar, Pakistan, on behalf of drone victims and sued the Pakistan government. The petitions relate to an attack that occurred on March 17, 2011, and killed Malik Daud Khan, head of the Tribal Jirga [assembly] in North Waziristan. Tribal elders had gathered to resolve a “Chromite mine dispute among two sub tribes.” The dispute had caused a “long feud” and posed a “threat to public peace.” On the day the Jirga met, the CIA targeted the tribal leaders and killed fifty people.

    Son of Malik Daud Khan, Noor Khan, filed one petition, calling on the Pakistan government to end its failure to protect the Pakistani people from drone attacks. A second petition was filed on behalf of the forty-nine other victims. The second petition names some of the victims.

    The names and descriptions of those killed definitely cuts through the narrative that the US likes to promote:

    Din Mohammad aged 25 approx. hailed from Manzar Khel, North Waziristan Agency and was a driver by profession and was also dealing in sale and purchase of chromite. On March 17th 2011, he was in attendance at the Jirga and was killed at the spot by the drone strike. He was buried according to Islamic and Pashtun rituals at his ancestral graveyard. He has left two widows and two small children…

    Khanay Khan resident of Miramshah, North Waziristan Agency, aged 40 years approx. was participating at the Jirga as representative of his people. He was the sole bread earner of his family as well. On March 17th 2011, he was in attendance at the Jirga and was killed at spot by the drone strike. His body in pieces was brought back to Miramshah by his sons and buried there…

    Mohammad Noor aged 27 resident of Khar Tangi, North Waziristan Agency was in attendance at the Jirga on March 17th 2011 along with his slain Uncle Gull Mohammad and Cousin Mohammad Ismail when around 1100 hrs US operated drone struck the Jirga with hellfire missiles killing dozens at the spot including his Uncle and Cousin. Mohammad Noor was severally injured. His lower body was damaged scarring his legs for life. He was hospitalized and both of his legs were fractured and doctors had to insert a metal rod to act as bones in his legs to enable him to stand and walk with clutches….

    Not naming the dead reinforces the unethical, illegal and inhumane aspects of the US drone program. It is no surprise that news outlets in the US rarely publish accounts on the victims. However, it must be noted that, especially in Pakistan, even if one wanted to go report on who was killed, those who run to rescue victims can easily become targets. The CIA and Pakistani military also cordon the area around Waziristan making it impossible for journalists to get in and document those killed and what was damaged in the attacks.

    The US cannot have journalists going into areas to do reporting that brings transparency to the nature of the program. This is why President Obama ordered former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh to not pardon and release Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye from prison. Shaye was effective at covering the aftermath of drone attacks. He interviewed victims in the al-Majalah massacre and helped human rights groups uncover the fact that the bombs were not from Yemen but rather the US.

    It is also why Tariq Aziz likely became a target. Aziz was 16-years-old. He wanted to photograph drone victims to raise awareness. The UK-based human rights group Reprieve decided to provide cameras to children in Pakistan. He attended a drone conference in October 27, 2011, in Islamabad. He received some training that he could use to cover and report on drone strikes. Days later, he was targeted and killed in a drone strike while driving his mother to the hospital in Waziristan.

  7. Drone death in Yemen of an American teenager
    By Michelle Shephard
    National Security Reporter
    Published On Sat Apr 14 2012–drone-death-in-yemen-of-an-american-teenager


    SANAA, YEMEN— With the house still quiet with slumber, the 15-year-old left a letter for his mother begging forgiveness, then crawled out a second-storey kitchen window and dropped to the garden below.

    Abdulrahman al Awlaki crossed the front yard past potted plants and a carnival ride graveyard — Dumbo, Donald Duck, an arched seal balancing a beach ball — debris from his uncle Omar’s failed business venture to install rides in local shopping malls.

    The family’s guard saw the grade nine student with a mop of curly hair leave the front gate at about 6:30 a.m. that morning on Sept. 4. Abdulrahman then made his way to the gates of Bab al-Yemen to catch a bus to a cousin’s house in Shabwa province in the south.

    As he crossed the desert on his six-hour journey, his family awoke to news of his disappearance.

    “He wrote to his mother, ‘I am sorry for leaving in this kind of way. Forgive me. I miss my father and want to see if I can go and talk to him,’ ” said the boy’s grandfather, Nasser al Awlaki, as he sipped tea in his lavish home. “ ‘I will be coming back in a few days.’ ”

    “He was very obedient to everybody in the house,” said Awlaki, “and that’s why it was a surprise that he would make that kind of decision.”

    Nine days later, Abdulrahman turned 16.

    He never found his father, the radical online preacher Anwar al Awlaki, who a U.S. congresswoman had called “Terrorist Number One.”

    The teen wasn’t even in the right part of the country.

    On Sept. 30, CIA-directed hellfire missiles blasted a target in northern Yemen, killing his father and ending the two-year manhunt for the cleric whose preaching encouraged plots in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

    Anwar al Awlaki was born in the United States, having grown up in the West after his father, Nasser, moved his family there to study.

    Few mourned Awlaki’s death, but there was concern about the precedent. How could U.S. President Barack Obama order an American killed without any review?

    There has been considerably less talk about what happened two weeks later.

    On Oct. 14, U.S. drones pounded targets again, this time hundreds of kilometres away in the southeastern region of Azzan.

    Abdulrahman, also born in the U.S., and his 17-year-old cousin were among the seven killed. They were apparently having a barbecue.

    At first, media outlets reported that Abdulrahman was five years older than his actual age, had been militant like his father and, that a high-value Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) target was also among the dead.

    But his grandfather, Nasser al Awlaki, a Fulbright scholar, former agricultural minister and prominent figure in Yemen, said Abdulrahman had nothing to do with his father since he had gone into hiding in 2009.

    Nasser al Awlaki has never apologized for his son’s radical views, but said he had also worked hard to insulate his grandchildren from the controversy. He attempted, he said, to give them a “normal life.”

    Furious at the inaccurate reporting, he released his grandson’s birth certificate. It reads: “Abdulrahman Anwar al-Aulaqi (another English spelling of the last name). Born: Denver, Colorado. Sept. 13, 1995.”

    It later emerged, but was not widely reported, that the strike did not kill its purported target, AQAP’s media chief, Egyptian Ibrahim al Bana.

    The U.S. administration has refused comment.

    It is unclear whether Abdulrahman was the target or if the U.S. had bad information and was going after Bana, or someone else. Either way, Awlaki said he wants answers.

    So do the student demonstrators who forced former president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power, many of whom knew Abdulrahman. They carried posters in Change Square with his picture last year and the words: “The Assassination of Childhood.”

    “We just don’t know why they did that,” Awlaki said of the U.S. strike. “Is it because Abdulrahman was there? It’s very possible, but I cannot claim with certainty what happened. Is it a blunder on their side?

    “They cannot claim he’s collateral damage.”

    DRONES and U.S. directed missions have killed hundreds in Yemen in the past four years, some hitting AQAP targets, many more striking civilians.

    Aside from the moral and legal implications, analysts in Yemen and the U.S. question their effectiveness against terrorism.

    Take, for instance, a strike in Abyan province in December 2009 that killed 55. Among the dead were 14 women and 21 children.

    The U.S. refused to acknowledge the botched mission. Compare this to the reaction last month when 17 Afghan citizens were slaughtered, allegedly by U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. Obama released a statement promising to “establish the facts as quickly as possible and to hold fully accountable anyone responsible.” The families of the dead were reportedly offered $50,000 each in “condolence payments.”

  8. Michael Murry:

    “Once you have done that, then we can further discuss your addiction to the self-referential tautology, or thought-terminating cliche.”


    Ah, Mike, not to upset your apple cart but the person who wrote the tautology you complain so vociferously about was Lottakatz, not me, but, hey, why spoil a good rant with pesky facts.

    And sure, you have a right to complain but why should you? You an ex-pat carping without doing anything here except carping via the internet. What’s an ex-patriot (as you proudly proclaim on your blog) anyway? My thesaurus say the opposite of a patriot is a traitor, but I’ll assume you’ve not engaged in any act of treason so what is your status? Misanthrope? Curmudgeon? Disappointed idealist?

    For your nickel you get to complain all you want about the country, its leaders, and its policies. You don’t get to hate her with impunity however because that means hating its people and that, my dear ” Man (perhaps) Without a Country ” is the essence of treason.

    By the way, I don’t intentionally talk to traitors.

  9. Mespo:

    If you want to enter an adult discussion about the use of language, please first read S. I. Hayakawa’s (now updated) introduction to general semantics, Language in Thought and Action — still a world-wide classic. He has some really good material on denotation and connotation, which Gene H alluded to in another thread on propaganda. You can find Hayakawa’s book at any halfway decent bookstore, since it has never gone out of print since its first edition in 1939 and shows no sign of doing so in the foreseeable future. Once you have done that, then we can further discuss your addiction to the self-referential tautology, or thought-terminating cliche.

    And since I also quoted the historical psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton — who has expressed no views on the Panama canal or Japanese American Internment Compensation — you might want to read his famous work: Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: a study of “brainwashing” in China. It would explain you to you almost as well as S. I. Hayakawa did back in 1941, regardless of his political views on any subject at any time in his life.

    But then, dealing with the substance of a topic doesn’t seem like one of your strong suits. And please don’t respond with: “A REMF.s gotta do what a REMF’s gotta do,” by which you would really mean to say: “This particular Rear Echelon Mother F***er simply does what one would expect a Rear Echelon Mother F***er to do.” And from my experience with REMFs, this usually means watching them drool while screaming at others: “Let’s you and him fight so I can watch from a safe distance!” Pathetic.

    One more thing: I earned the right to “bash” the policies of the American government when my mother gave birth to me in America. We used to call this “citizenship.” I further earned the right to “bash” the policies of the American government when its corrupt officials bullied me into joining the U. S. military in preference to prison or exile for non-compliance with its policy of conscription. So if the American government doesn’t like me “bashing” its lunatic militarist imperialism — of which I have bitter personal experience — then the United States Government can desist from giving me every reason in the world to “bash” it. Given enough “bashing,” the American government will eventually stop deserving it. Simple as that.

    Now, off to the library with you.

  10. mespo,

    In all fairness, that is not what I read Bob as saying. He’s decrying your apparent flexibility in applying the rule of law, due process and the definition of what constitutes war. You are describing the actions of a criminal and applying the remedy of warfare. This just serves to highlight the problems of declaring war on a noun instead of a state. The reasoning that war can be against states and non-state actors is as ridiculous now as it was on Propaganda 101 thread where the Nazi apologist was saying the Jews declared war on Germany when a group of Jews called for an economic boycott of Germany without any kind of state to back them let alone state backing for their actions. Al-Quaeda is no more capable of declaring war for Pakistan than the AJC was capable of “declaring war” for the non-state Jews of the 30’s and 40’s, yet you seem to have no issue with violating Pakistan’s sovereignty to get at them and thus inviting a state of war between the U.S. and Pakistan which would be considerably more dangerous than dealing with a violent criminal organization in the traditional manner. War is a status of relationship between states, not between states and non-state groups. That is part of the general problem of perception created when a society has to think of things in martial terms like “the War of Poverty” or “the War of Drugs” or “the War on Terror”. That’s a gross distortion of both defining the problem and the appropriate solutions to that problem.


    A comment from the previous article:


    1, June 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Nal: “Obama’s “double tap” policy is nothing short of despicable. Obama has brought dishonor to America and to our founding principles.”
    Jill: “The US is using collective punishment, to include the killing of civilians, to coerce compliance from another nation. This is a govt. completely out of control both internally and externally. ”


    Agree. well said.

  12. Bob,Esq:

    “You have argued here that it is right to assassinate American citizens solely based on the fact that they have been accused of treason.”


    Well, that plus he was the operational head of Al-Quaeda and openly advocated killing innocent American women and children in the name of jihad, and the killing was authorized by international law and no one has even suggested prosecuting us, but why let those little facts get in the way of you rant.

    Please continue … you were just decrying the targeted killing of a madman who wanted to kill Americans for no good reason.

  13. This being a blawg, thought that this OT notice would be welcomed. Remembrance of JT’s Congress appearances, indirectly so. Maybe he also got NYTimes front page notice.

    Anybody interested in historic battles? For instance Joseph McCarthy and the Army hearings.
    NYTimes headlines it today as a memorable event. The report itself is interesting as a document as to how things were presented then.

    Here’s a link below to the article. Front page upper right placement. Can be bought in replica. Suitable gift to JT?

    Personally remember hearing exchanges between McCarthy
    and Welch on the radio. The yankee badger versus the southern gentleman. Guess who got the public’s sympathy vote in audible form?

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