The Obama administration must follow the law on lethal force (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
It’s been a hectic 24 hours on the Obama administration’s use of drones and lethal force. As I write this, Senator Paul has accepted Attorney General Holder’s answer about drone strikes on US soil and the Senate has confirmed John Brennan—one of the architects of the drone killing program—as Director of the CIA. There’s a lot to unpack about what’s happened and where things stand now.
But I want to focus on what should happen next to make sure that no person—US citizen or anyone else—is killed outside the bounds of law with a drone or other weapons.
1) The Obama administration must follow existing law on the use of lethal force.
Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Yesterday,the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed a new director of the CIA — John Brennan. He is a controversial figure, and as you read this Senator Rand Paul and a bi-partisan group of Senators may still be attempting to filibuster the final Senate vote on his nomination. (You can check here.)
What’s the controversy? John Brennan is one of the chief architects of the administration’s drone killing policy, which has reportedly resulted in 4,700 people killed so far, according to Senator Lindsey Graham.
Read that number again. 4,700 human beings killed. Call us crazy, but don’t you think the world — including the thousands of people and families directly affected by drone attacks worldwide – deserves to know on what basis the Obama administration claims the right to kill people?
The United States is not the only country where children are facing an epidemic of gun violence. While in the U.S., we continue to grapple with the tragic reality of children who routinely face gun violence in their communities and children who increasingly are the targets of mass shootings, in other places around the world, we see the heartbreaking consequences of children who also face the daily horrors of armed conflict, many forced to become soldiers.
“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”
Late last night, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law with provisions that restrict the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and further impede closure of the prison. Furthermore, nothing was done to correct provisions in last year’s NDAA that further entrench indefinite military detention, unfair trials, and the U.S. government’s “global war” framework, in U.S. law.
The “global war” framework— which holds that the U.S. government is engaged in a global, pervasive, never-ending “war” with al-Qaeda and other vaguely defined groups and individuals—was first articulated by the Bush administration and has been embraced by the Obama administration.
Today, Congress again failed to uphold the U.S. government’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. It passed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with provisions that would gravely hinder the effort to close Guantanamo prison, and would further entrench indefinite detention.
One of our postcard actions in front of the White house
This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered thousands of signed postcards to the White House. The postcards call on President Obama to push for an end to Israel’s continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip. For over five years, the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza have lived under an Israeli military blockade that has left more than one million Palestinians dependent on international humanitarian aid.
The postcards, signed by thousands of Amnesty International supporters and members across the US, call attention to Israel’s near ban on exports from the Gaza Strip. The Gazan economy has been effectively crippled by this export ban and other aspects of the blockade.
As a result, massive numbers of Palestinians now live in a state of permanent unemployment. Our 2012 human rights report documents that over 70 percent of Gaza’s residents now depend on humanitarian aid. While imports into Gaza have increased since mid-2010, they are still far below the levels allowed before the blockade began in 2007.
Amadou Maiga from Mali, who has lost friends in conflict, spoke in front of a mock graveyard across from the United Nations which represents those killed by arms everyday around the world. (Control Arms Coalition/Andrew Kelly)
After 10 years of campaigning and three weeks of final negotiations, yesterday afternoon saw the belated delivery of a draft text for the Arms Trade Treaty. Governments are now in the midst of intense negotiations as they look to reach an agreement by Friday.
The draft includes a requirement that each government assess whether there is a substantial risk that an international arms transfer would be used for serious violations of international human rights law or international humanitarian law, which is the “Golden Rule” we’ve long campaigned for. It would also ban transfers for the purpose of facilitating genocide or crimes against humanity.
In short, a strong Arms Trade Treaty will make it much harder to send arms to places like Syriawhere they will be used to harm civilians and violate their human rights.
June 26th is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture and Amnesty International has launched a powerful new online video – “Hooded” – to mark the occasion.
Hooding is a practice that gets to the heart of the relationship between the torturer and his – or her – victim. The hooded victim is dehumanized – hooding deprives the victim of a face, of an identity – and dehumanization is almost always a precursor of abuse.
The anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson famously labeled dehumanization “the fifth horseman of the apocalypse”, an essential precursor to war, rape, pillage and genocide.
Hooding is disorientating. It is designed to restrict the victim’s ability to defend himself – or herself – from harm. It is also calculated to instill fear, a dread of the unknown, of the dark.
Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack. (Photo by THIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)
On Monday John Brennan, the President’s adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, popped up at the Woodrow Wilson Center to give a major policy speech on the “ethics and efficacy” of drone use.
Brennan’s argument had two main planks: That drones work and that their use is entirely legal. Both claims deserve close examination because neither is quite as simple as it seems.
In a classic rhetorical device Brennan threw out perhaps the most contentious aspect of his analysis as though it was a given, stating that “as a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces.”