Published on Nov 25, 2013
Is there a difference between George W. Bush and Barack Obama? If there is no difference, why is this the case? What is it about American politics that changes politicians once they are in high office? And, in light of the Obama presidency, will history now look more kindly upon Bush Jr.? CrossTalking with Daniel Faraci, Austin Petersen and Kimberly Amadeo.
Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother
Tribesmen from Waziristan protest against US drone attacks, outside Pakistan’s parliament in Islamabad, in 2010. Photograph: T Mughal/EPA
The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children’s clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. She always used to say: the joy of Eid is the excitement it brings to the children.
Last year, she never had that experience. The next day, 24 October 2012, she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden.
Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day. The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 67-year-old grandmother of nine.
My three children – 13-year-old Zubair, nine-year-old Nabila and five-year-old Asma – were playing nearby when their grandmother was killed. All of them were injured and rushed to hospitals. Were these children the “militants” the news reports spoke of? Or perhaps, it was my brother’s children? They, too, were there. They are aged three, seven, 12, 14, 15 and 17 years old. The eldest four had just returned from a day at school, not long before the missile struck.
But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this. No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.
I care, though. And so does my family and my community. We want to understand why a 67-year-old grandmother posed a threat to one of the most powerful countries in the world. We want to understand how nine children, some playing in the field, some just returned from school, could possibly have threatened the safety of those living a continent and an ocean away.
Most importantly, we want to understand why President Obama, when asked whom drones are killing, says they are killing terrorists. My mother was not a terrorist. My children are not terrorists. Nobody in our family is a terrorist.
Read More Here
Family of Grandmother Killed in US Drone Strike Arrive for Congress Visit
on October 28, 2013
by Ryan Devereaux
Drawing on a pad of paper in a Washington DC hotel, Nabeela ur Rehman recalled the day her grandmother was killed. “I was running away,” the nine-year told the Guardian. “I was trying to wipe away the blood.”
“It was as if it was night all of the sudden.”
The date was 24 October 2012, the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holy day. Nabeela’s father, Rafiq ur Rehman, a school teacher living in the remote Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, was dropping off sweets at his sister’s home when it happened.
He had hoped to make the visit a family affair but his mother urged him to go alone. Rafiq did as she wished then stopped at the local mosque for evening prayers before taking the bus home. As the vehicle came to a halt at his stop, Rehman noticed something unsettling: members of his community were preparing to bury a body at a small graveyard nearby.
“I got a little worried,” Rehman said. He asked a boy what was going on. The child informed him that the mother of a man named Latif Rehman had been killed in a drone attack. The boy did not know the man he spoke to was Latif Rehman’s younger brother.
“That’s when I first knew,” Rehman said, describing how he learned of his mother’s death. The fruits Rehman had collected at the bazaar fell from his hands. “I just dropped everything. I was in a state of shock,” he said. Rehman feared the worst. He knew his children were with their grandmother. “I frantically ran to my house.”
Rehman arrived home to find that the charred remains of his mother had already been buried. Two of his children, Nabeela and her 12-year-old brother, Zubair, had been injured and taken to a nearby hospital, neighbors said. “At that point, I thought I had lost them as well,” Rehman said.
The children survived the attack, but their recovery process was just beginning. A year later, Rehman still has no idea why his mother, Momina Bibi, a 67-year-old midwife, was blown to pieces while tending her garden. Along with Nabeela and Zubair, Rehman has traveled to Washington DC to seek answers. On Tuesday, the family will appear before members of Congress to describe their experience, marking the first time in history that US lawmakers will hear directly from the survivors of an alleged US drone strike.
On Sunday, in their first interview with US media since arriving to the country and speaking through a translator, Rehman and his children described the day Momina Bibi was killed and their efforts since then to find justice. Zubair, now 13, said the sky was clear the day his grandmother died. He had just returned home from school. Everyone had been in high spirits for the holiday, Zubair said, though above their heads aircraft were circling. Not airplanes or helicopters, Zubair said.
“I know the difference,” Zubair said, explaining the different features and sounds the vehicles make. “I am certain that it was a drone.” Zubair recalled a pair of “fireballs” tearing through the clear blue sky, after he stepped outside. After the explosion there was darkness, he said, and a mix of smoke and debris.
“When it first hit, it was like everyone was just going crazy. They didn’t know what to make of it,” Zubair said. “There was madness.” A piece of shrapnel ripped into the boy’s left leg, just above his kneecap. A scar approximately four inches in length remains. “I felt like I was on fire,” he said. The injury would ultimately require a series of costly operations.
Nabeela, the little girl, was collecting okra when the missiles struck. “My grandma was teaching me how you can tell if the okra is ready to be picked,” she said. “All of the sudden there was a big noise. Like a fire had happened.
“I was scared. I noticed that my hand was hurting, that there was something that had hit my hand and so I just started running. When I was running I noticed that there was blood coming out of my hand.”
Nabeela continued running. The bleeding would not stop. She was eventually scooped up by her neighbors. “I had seen my grandmother right before it had happened but I couldn’t see her after. It was just really dark but I could hear [a] scream when it had hit her.”
Early media reports, citing anonymous Pakistani officials, claimed as many as four militants were killed in the attack. The strike drew the attention of an Amnesty International researcher, Mustafa Qadri, who was investigating drone attacks in Pakistan at the time.
“We got all sorts of different stories to begin with,” Qadri told the Guardian. “One was that [Bibi] was preparing a meal for some militants and that’s why she was killed. Another one was that there was a militant on a motorbike, right next to her. And then there’s this story of, that there was a militant in a jeep, SUV, with a satellite phone, at the exact point that she’s killed, but 10 minutes earlier. He used the phone and then he drives off into the distance. And then the drones come later and they kill her. So we found that that just really did not add up.”
Qadri reached out to trusted sources in North Waziristan. The family members and their neighbors were interviewed independently on multiple occasions, unaware that a human-rights group was behind the questions they were asked. Over the course of many weeks, Qadri found the family’s account to be consistent. He determined it was highly unlikely that any militants were present at the time of the strike and that the missiles were likely fired by a US drone.
“It was a number of things,” Qadri told the Guardian. “We got the missiles, the large fragments that the family has that we got analyzed by [an] expert who says this is very likely to be a Hellfire missile. We also had family members who saw drones physically. We also have the eyewitness of the family who said they heard the noise of missiles fired from the sky and then separate noises of missiles impacting on the ground. We have the evidence of a double sound, with each single strike.”
Read More Here
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has provided the Russian army with a copy of the US ScanEagle drone which was hunted by the IRGC in 2012 and a video showing how Iran monitors the trans-regional countries’ vessels and equipment in the Persian Gulf.
“The drone built by the IRGC is a symbol of the technical capabilities of the Islamic Iran and today we presented a real model of it as a gift to (Russian Air Force Commander) Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev and the Russian people,” Commander of Iran’s Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli said after a meeting with Bondarev in Tehran.
Esmayeeli also gifted Bondarev a video of the IRGC’s monitoring of the trans-regional states’ warships and equipment in the Persian Gulf to be given to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
On December 4, Commander of the IRGC Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi announced that his forces hunted a US Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country’s airspace.
ScanEagle is a small, low-cost, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle built by Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing.
As standard payload ScanEagle carries either an inertially stabilized electro-optical or an infrared camera. The gimbaled camera allows the operator to easily track both stationary and moving targets, providing real-time intelligence.
Read More Here
Iran gives Russia copy of US ScanEagle drone as proof of mass production
US spy drone given to prove Iran’s forces have mass produced the drone they claim to have captured a year ago
- theguardian.com, Monday 21 October 2013 13.53 EDT
The ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) launches from the flight deck. Photograph: Handout/Reuters
Iran has given Russia a copy of a US spy drone as proof that its elite forces have reverse-engineered and mass produced the American unmanned aerial vehicle they claim to have captured a year ago.
Iranian media reported yesterday that the copy of the ScanEagle drone was provided to Russia on the sidelines of a meeting in Tehran between Farzad Esmayeeli, the air defence commander of Khatam al-Anbia, the Revolutionary Guards’ military and industrial base, and Viktor Bondarev, head of the Russian air force.
In December 2012, a guards’ commander said his forces had got their hands on a ScanEagle, promising Tehran would mass produce it. The US authorities denied those claims at the time, saying all its drones were fully accounted for.
“The drone built by the Islamic republic’s Revolutionary Guards is a symbol of the technical capabilities of the Islamic Iran and today we presented a real model of it as a gift to Russian air force … and the Russian people,” Esmayeeli said after meeting with Bondarev, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Iran’s state English-language newspaper, Tehran Times, said the two met on Sunday and spoke on a range of air defence issues but it did not give further details.
Read More Here
Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad on Thursday, August 01, 2013 .
The Obama administration is quietly releasing more than $1.6 billion in frozen military and financial assistance to Pakistan, ahead of the prime minister’s visit to the White House this week.
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that Congress has given the green light to dispersing most of the money, which should start moving in early 2014.
The aid was stalled while the two countries’ relationship soured in the wake of the 2011 military raid that killed Osama bin Laden and NATO air strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers later that year.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House.
“The meeting will highlight the importance and resilience of the US-Pakistan relationship and provide an opportunity for us to strengthen cooperation on issues of mutual concern, such as energy, trade and economic development, regional stability, and countering violent extremism,” the White House said in a description of the meeting.
The White House added that discussions will focus “on ways we can advance our shared interest of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan.”
According to the AP report, the State Department began meeting with lawmakers in July and August to inform them of its plans to restart assistance. Those officials, it added, said that broader cooperation from Pakistan led to the resumption of aid, rather than any specific event.
Pakistan tells U.N. at least 400 civilians killed by drone strikes
(Reuters) – Pakistan has confirmed that of some 2,200 people killed by drone strikes in the past decade, at least 400 were civilians and an additional 200 victims were deemed “probable non-combatants,” a U.N. human rights investigator said on Friday.
Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, also urged the United States to release its own data on the number of civilian casualties caused by its drone strikes.
Emmerson said Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry told him it had recorded at least 330 drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan’s largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, since 2004.
Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the U.S.-led combat mission ends in 2014. Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them.
In an interim report to U.N. General Assembly released on Friday, Emmerson said Pakistani government records showed that drone strikes had killed at least 2,200 people and seriously wounded at least 600 since 2004.
He said Pakistan had confirmed that “at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of remotely piloted aircraft strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants.”
“Officials indicated that, owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate” of civilian deaths, Emmerson said.
Emmerson, who visited Pakistan in March, noted that principal media monitoring organizations had recorded a “marked drop” in reported civilians casualties from drone strikes in the tribal areas during 2012 and the first half of 2013.
The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan’s administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in Afghanistan.
Read More Here
Predator drones ‘useless’ in combat scenarios – Air Force general
Published time: September 20, 2013 00:15
Edited time: September 20, 2013 03:37
The fleet of MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones are no match for aircraft that can fly higher and faster, like those employed by the most basic of air defenses around the world, Gen. Mike Hostage, chief of the air service’s Air Combat Command, said at an Air Force Association conference.
“Predators and Reapers are useless in a contested environment,” Hostage said, as quoted by Foreign Policy.
“Today…I couldn’t put [a Predator or Reaper] into the Strait of Hormuz without having to put airplanes there to protect it,” he added.
The Air Force revealed this week that an F-22 intercepted an Iranian F-4 Phantom jet fleet closing in on a US Predator over the strait earlier this year. In late 2012, Iranian jets fired on and missed a Predator drone in the strait.
Read More Here
The wildfire threatening Yosemite National Park is spreading further into the US tourist landmark, officials said as they battled to stop it clouding a holiday weekend.
Efforts to contain the so-called Rim Fire, which has grown to become California’s sixth biggest wildfire ever, were also being boosted by the deployment of a military drone approved by the Pentagon.
The fire, which now covers more than 192,000 acres, or 300 square miles, and is 30 percent contained, has also threatened San Francisco’s water supply, due to ash falling on a key reservoir.
The blaze, about a quarter of which is now inside the park’s boundaries, “is expected to continue its eastward spread farther into the west side of Yosemite National Park,” said the latest firefighters’ online update.
The fire, which started west of the park on August 17, is threatening some 4,500 structures and on Wednesday forced the closure of a second main road into the major US tourist attraction ahead of the Labor Day weekend.
A surge of visitors is typically expected over this weekend’s Labor Day holiday at Yosemite, which draws millions of tourists every year, most in July and August. Labor Day traditionally marks the end of the summer season.
Read More Here
Raging California wildfire threatens more of Yosemite
The wildfire near Yosemite National Park is 20 percent contained, while more than 4,000 firefighters work towards quelling the huge blaze altogether. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.
By Tom Costello and Tracy Jarrett, NBC News
A California wildfire that has scorched an area nearly as large as New York City near Yosemite National Park was 20 percent contained Tuesday, officials said. But the raging blaze was expected to move farther into the park and threaten a reservoir that provides most of San Francisco’s water.
The so-called Rim Fire, has charred 179,480 acres, or about 280 square miles, making it California’s seventh largest fire in state history, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It threatens 4,500 structures as well as the power and water utilities for San Francisco, roughly 200 miles to the west.
The flames also loomed over towering sequoias that are among the largest and oldest living things on the planet. The iconic trees can withstand fire, but brutal conditions — including harsh winds and thick brush — have prompted park employees to take extra precautions in the Tuolumne and Merced groves, according to the Associated Press.
“All of the plants and trees in Yosemite are important, but the giant sequoias are incredibly important both for what they are and as symbols of the National Park System,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the AP.
Read More and Watch Videos Here
Firefighting felons: Hundreds of inmates battling the Yosemite blaze
Jae C. Hong / AP
Inmate firefighters, who are paid $1 an hour as part of California’s conservation prison-camp program, work the Rim Fire threatening Yosemite.
They swing the same Pulaskis, buzz the same chainsaws and face the same dangers.
But 673 of the wildland firefighters battling the ferocious blaze around Yosemite National Park have something that other hotshot crew members do not: a prison identification number.
They’re part of California’s conservation camp program, which takes convicts out of jail cells and puts them on the front lines of wildfires, where they earn $1 an hour cutting containment lines that keep flames from spreading.
“They are in the thick of it,” said Capt. Jorge Santana of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The agency has sent 621 men and 52 women to tackle the so-called Rim Fire, which has engulfed nearly 300 square miles of land in 12 days. More have been deployed to 20 other fires across the state.
Inmate firefighters line up for dinner at the Rim Fire camp near Buck Meadows, Calif.
“They work 24-hour shifts,” Santana said. “They sleep in tents at base camp. They work side-by-side with other firefighters.
“They risk their lives.”
Other states have inmate firefighters, but California’s program — with 42 minimum-security camps and more than 4,100 volunteers — is the biggest and oldest, dating to 1946.
Aaron Olguin, 30, said he heard about it soon after he was sentenced to four years and four months for a drunken-driving crash in which people were injured.
Like other applicants, he underwent two weeks of punishing fitness training: grueling hikes, 9-minute mile-long runs and a regime of military-style calisthenics. Then came two weeks of job training by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“We hiked straight up mountains with 45 pounds on our back, carrying tools and water and other necessities,” he said.
Olguin got some time shaved off his sentence and spent almost three years in the program before being released last November. He estimates he worked up to 20 fires and recalled some “close calls” with falling rocks and trees at night.
Read More Here
Military drone drafted to tackle massive Yosemite wildfire; smoke cancels football games
The Rim Fire burns along Highway 120 near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Aug. 25. With winds gusting and flames jumping from treetop to treetop, hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to protect communities in the path of the Rim Fire raging north of Yosemite National Park.
The fight against the Western wildfires just got upgraded. Unmanned military drones are being used in the battle against California’s massive wildfire. NBC’s Lester Holt reports.
An unmanned military Predator drone, similar to those that have seen action in Afghanistan, has been called in to battle against a raging California wildfire that has scorched an area almost as large as New York City.
The enormous Rim Fire, which has charred 200,000 acres in 13 days, has unleashed a smoky haze that has worsened air quality more than 100 miles away in Nevada. High school athletics officials canceled all football games Friday and Saturday across eight counties in both states as the air quality index hovered around the “unhealthy” level.
The drone, an MQ-1 aircraft remotely piloted by the 163rd Wing of the California National Guard, is helping to provide round-the-clock information to firefighters.
The wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park was more than 30 percent contained as more than 4,000 firefighters continued to make progress. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.
“The drone is providing data directly back to the incident commander, allowing him to make quick decisions about which resources to deploy and where,” California fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
Previously, crews tackling the blaze relied on helicopters that needed to refuel every two hours, for their air information.
But the drone, which is the size of a small Cessna plane, will remain over the burn zone for up to 22 hours at a time, its fitted cameras providing real-time video on the fire’s movement.
Pilots will operate the craft remotely from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside. It will be escorted by a manned aircraft.
Officials were eager to point out that the images are being used only to aid in the effort to contain the fire, which has become California’s sixth-largest on record.
Read More and Watch Video Here