By Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
There has been yet another violent attack with mass casualties. This was not the act of a lone gunman, or of an armed student rampaging through a school. It was a group of families en route to a wedding that was killed. The town was called Radda—not in Colorado, not in Connecticut, but in Yemen. The weapon was not an easy-to-obtain semiautomatic weapon, but missiles fired from U.S. drones. On Thursday, Dec. 12, 17 people were killed, mostly civilians. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has consistently tracked U.S. drone attacks, recently releasing a report on the six months following President Barack Obama’s major address on drone warfare before the National Defense University (NDU) last May. In that speech, Obama promised that “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.” The BIJ summarized, “Six months after President Obama laid out U.S. rules for using armed drones, a Bureau analysis shows that covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed more people than in the six months before the speech.” In a nation that abhors the all-too-routine mass killing in our communities, why does our government consistently kill so many innocents abroad?
One significant problem with assessing the U.S. drone-warfare program is its secrecy. U.S. officials rarely comment on the program, less so about any specific attack, especially where civilian deaths occur. As Obama admitted in the speech, “There’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties.” The BIJ’s estimate of the death toll from U.S. drone strikes during the past 12 years in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is well over 4,000.
While the U.S. media shower attention on the hypothetical prospects that in the next few years, Amazon.com will deploy clever little drones to deliver your holiday orders, it is important to take a hard look at what these airborne robots are actually doing now. “Democracy Now!” correspondent Jeremy Scahill has been exposing U.S. covert warmaking for years, most recently in his book and film “Dirty Wars.” The film was just shortlisted for an Oscar for best documentary. After the Academy Award nomination was made, he told us, “I hope that people pay attention to these stories, that Americans will know what happened to the Bedouin villagers in al-Majalah, Yemen, where three dozen women and children were killed in a U.S. cruise missile strike that the White House tried to cover up.”
In his NDU address, Obama said, “We act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” Neither Obama nor any of his aides have explained just what kind of threat the wedding convoy presented to the American people. The government of Yemen, following local custom, made reparations to the victimized families, reportedly delivering 101 Kalashnikov rifles and a little over $100,000.