US carries out first drone attacks, will escalate Libya war
2011-04-23 0:00

By Geoff Simons |

President Obamaís authorisation of the use of missile-armed drones is a further escalation of the Libya conflict that is sure to result in yet more civilian casualties (Obama sends in Predator drones to help Misrata, 22 April). The evidence is overwhelming that drone usage in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere massively increases "collateral damage". On 6 May 2002 a drone killed 10 Afghan civilians in a car convoy. On 5 January 2006 a drone targeting al-Qaidaís Ayman al-Zawahiri blew up a house in Pakistan. He wasnít there and eight civilians were killed. A week later a Predator ordered into action from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, destroyed three houses in Demadola, Pakistan, killing 22 civilians, including five women and five children.

On 19 May 2009 a drone attacked homes of villagers in North Waziristan thought to be aiding insurgents, killing 14 women and children. On 2 December 2010, Conflict Monitoring Centre in Islamabad issued a report charging that the US was deliberately ignoring Pakistani civilian deaths (2,043 over five years) caused by drones. On 23 January 2011, after 13 more civilians were killed, 2,000 tribesmen in North Waziristan held a protest against drone missile strikes.

In May 2010 Philip Alston, UN special representative on extrajudicial executions, highlighted the prevalence of a "PlayStation" mentality among drone operators in the US, in effect playing video games with distant and depersonalised targets. Alston, a professor of law at New York University, said: "Iím particularly concerned that the US asserts an ever-expanding entitlement to target individuals across the globe ... an ill-defined licence to kill without accountability."

Geoff Simons is author of Drone Diplomacy

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US carries out first drone attack in Libya

The United States has launched its first air strike by unmanned drone planes in Libya on April 23.

The Pentagon confirmed the strike, but did not give details of the target.

Meanwhile, Libyaís Deputy Foreign Minister, Khaled Kaim, said the U.S. decision to deploy unmanned Predator drones to carry out ground strikes would be a crime against humanity. RTE News

The strike occurred today in the early afternoon local time, the Pentagon said in an e-mailed statement today, without providing further details. U.S. President Barack Obama last week approved the use of Predator drones. Bloomberg

Before Saturdayís strike, two US Predators were already being used above Libya for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. BBC

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said President Barack Obama had approved air strikes in support of the NATO-led mission because that was where the U.S. had "some unique capabilities". BBC

The Pentagon spokesman said in an earlier statement that it is "standard procedure not to discuss specifics about UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) missions in any theater of operation." AFP

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is leading a UN-sanctioned mission to police a no-fly zone, protect civilians and enforce an arms embargo against Qaddafiís government. Bloomberg

The cost of the air war in Libya for the U.S. military has reached $608 million, a U.S. defense official said April 11.

The Pentagon has estimated the air campaign will cost the United States about $40 million a month, even after NATO allies took the lead in the U.N.-mandated operation designed to protect civilians against Muammar Qaddafiís forces.

The stated mission of the U.S. has been to protect Libyan civilians from Qaddafiís military forces but not to attack Qaddafi directly. Obama has said the goal is to give Libyan fighters the opportunity to gain enough strength to oust Qaddafi themselves. Still, Obama and other American officials have called for Qaddafi to step down from power. The Hill

The United States has continued bombing Libya since announcing that as of April 4 it would assume just a "supporting role" in the Libya War. Antiwar

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