Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 2, 2012

US Citizens to lead anti-drone march in northern Pakistan

Medea Benjamin in Tucson: Obama's Tuesday kill list responsible for assassination of 16-year-old from Denver

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

TUCSON -- President Obama's Tuesday kill list is responsible for the assassination of a 16-year-old boy from Denver, Medea Benjamin of CodePink said here today. Describing the US program of targeted assassinations using drones, the CIA out of control, and the US Congress refusing to act, Benjamin said it is time for US citizens to show the world they do not support US drone assassinations in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Benjamin called for citizens in Tucson to join the march with Pakistanis in northern Pakistan, during the week of September 21, and show the world that the people of the US seek global peace and understanding, and do not support US drone killings.

"President Obama signs off on the kill list," Benjamin said, speaking at a public gathering in the downtown Tucson library.

Obama meets with his advisers on Tuesday to review the list. "They decide who will live and who will die," Benjamin said. Any male on the ground of military age is considered fair game.

She said that in a signature strike, drone operators manning the computer screens can fire at anything that looks suspicious, on the other side of the world, without the suspect being given a chance to surrender, or defend themselves against charges.

Benjamin, author of "Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control," described the drone warfare that has killed both the US Constitution and innocent people, including children and teens, in Pakistan and Yemen.

During the Bush administration, drone strikes were every 40 days. During the Obama administration, the drone strikes increased to 1 every 3 days. Currently, there is a drone strike every 4 days.

US drone killing in western Pakistan.
Those drone strikes have killed 175 children. Few US citizens ever see the photos of those children who are disintegrated or burned by those drones. Sometimes only pieces of their flesh can be found for burial. A drone's victim never hears the missile that kills him or her.

Benjamin described how one teenager, Tariq Aziz, attempted to take the case of a relative killed by a US drone to court in Pakistan. After meeting with attorneys, Tariq was assassinated by a US drone.

Benjamin pointed out that this type of US killing is counter-productive and driving people in other countries toward extremists out of despair and desperation.

Anwar Al-Awlaki was a 16-year-old from Denver. He was on Facebook and his friends said he was a normal teen, not interested in politics, who enjoyed rap and hip hop. He was enjoying an evening sharing a meal with his cousin in his family's home village in Yemen, when he and his cousin were assassinated by a US drone strike.

Obama refuses to respond to questions about the US drone killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki of Denver.

"Barack Obama is responsible for this killing," Benjamin said.

The US drone operations have been largely kept secret until now and operated by the CIA and Joint Special Operations.

While Americans falsely believe that they are the only ones with drones, she said that globally, drones are part of the arms race. Israel is the number one exporter of drones, and the number two producer of drones. Meanwhile, Iran is working on its own drone production plans with Venezuela, after Iran retrieved a US drone. China now is speeding up production of drones.

Benjamin said that in the US, the FAA knows that drones are not safe. She pointed out that one large Global Hawk drone recently crashed in Maryland. Besides being affected by bad weather, she pointed out that drones are unsafe because they can be hacked into by computer hackers.

Because of Freedom of Information Act requests, it is now known that the US has issued 700 domestic drone permits. Of those, 200 are active. She pointed out that the Arizona governor is pushing for Arizona to become a test site for domestic use of drones. In an obvious reference to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Benjamin pointed out that the thought of drones in the hands of some Arizona law enforcement agencies is frightening to consider. The audience moaned when the Arizona governor was mentioned.

Benjamin said that eight drones are being used by the US Border Patrol. However, she also pointed out that the drones are not effective in locating illegal immigrants or in detecting illegal drugs along the US/Mexico border.

The universities in Arizona are among the US universities involved in developing drone technology. Now, police departments are using drones. The Montgomery County, Texas, SWAT team has a drone which can be equipped with tasers, weapons and devices to intercept cell phone calls.

"The CIA is committing mass murder," Benjamin said, pointing out that private contractors are also operating drones.

Benjamin said the CIA is out of control and Congress is doing nothing to bring the CIA back into control. She points out that the US has not declared war on Pakistan and that the US violates international law by carrying out assassinations without chance of surrender or trial.

Benjamin hopes the people of Tucson will follow the example of the Occupy Movement in Buffalo, New York. They plan to send three representatives to march with the people of Pakistan against drones, and for global peace, during the week of September 21.

Pointing out that there are many heroes among us, she described how Fr. Louis Vitale at the age of 80 just keeps going out there to protest and getting arrested. Among those arrests was Vitale's arrest near Tucson, when he knelt to pray, and oppose US torture, at the US Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca.

Fort Huachuca, at Sierra Vista southeast of Tucson, is among the largest drone training centers.

Describing the US agenda of "spying and killing" with drones, Benjamin said there were only 50 drones, being used by the Pentagon, in the year 2000. Today, there are at least 7,000 US drones, and the number could be as high as 10,000 if the US were to release all the facts.

Benjamin said it is unknown how many drones the US is using as killing drones.

As outrage continues to grow over the US war in Afghanistan, even Republicans say it is time to halt spending $2 billion a week to keep the war going. When the US pulled troops out of Iraq, the drones were left behind with the US State Department.

Today, eight out of 10 Americans say it is OK to use drones to kill "suspects," who have not been given a chance to prove their innocence.

Currently, US drones can be as tiny as a dragonfly or hummingbird, and are now produced to look like both. Drones can also fit into backpacks. The Predator and Reaper drones are the size of small planes, while the larger drones, the Global Hawks, are the size of a large aircraft.

US killer drones are operated by Airforce personnel sitting in air-conditioned rooms all over the US, staring at a screen showing people thousands and thousands of miles away.

"They are pressing a button and killing people," Benjamin said.

The United Nations has objected to the US drone killings, stating that the US has promoted a "Play Station" mentality toward war.

Benjamin said soldiers pressing those buttons have the same level of post traumatic stress syndrome as those on the battlefield.

Pointing out how Wikileaks has revealed truth about the US role in deaths by drones, Benjamin said Bradley Manning remains in prison, while Bush and fellow criminals remain free. Further, she pointed out how news reporters today are faced with censorship, or being fired, if they report the truth about the United States program of drone assassinations.

Meanwhile, in Tucson, Censored News investigations reveal that the University of Arizona has been involved in drone research. This drone research led to an operation producing drones near the Tucson International Airport. The operation is on Tohono O'odham land of the San Xavier District. San Xavier District accepted the joint venture contract for Advanced Ceramics, after the Pascua Yaqui initially accepted, then rejected the project. Today, few details have been made public about the production of drones there.

Tohono O'odham human rights activists have boycotted the University of Arizona because of its role in the development of drones and border spy equipment, and oppose the manufacture of drones on O'odham land.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, to repost in full, contact, or feel free to share the link.

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