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John Brennan Vs. a Sixteen-Year-Old Boy

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', death, ethics, freedoms, government, HumanRights, humanrights, politics, violence, war, world, usa, society, media, middle-east )

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Afterwards, the US government refused to acknowledge the boys' deaths or explain why they were targeted. Why should they? This is a covert program where no one is held accountable for their actions.

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JL A (281)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 10:09 am

Published on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 by Common Dreams
John Brennan vs. a Sixteen-Year-Old Boy
by Medea Benjamin

In October 2011, 16-year-old Tariq Aziz attended a gathering in Islamabad where he was taught how to use a video camera so he could document the drones that were constantly circling over his Pakistani village, terrorizing and killing his family and neighbors. Two days later, when Aziz was driving with his 12-year-old cousin to a village near his home in Waziristan to pick up his aunt, his car was struck by a Hellfire missile. With the push of a button by a pilot at a US base thousands of miles away, both boys were instantly vaporized—only a few chunks of flesh remained.

Afterwards, the US government refused to acknowledge the boys’ deaths or explain why they were targeted. Why should they? This is a covert program where no one is held accountable for their actions.

The main architect of this drone policy that has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of innocents, including 176 children in Pakistan alone, is President Obama’s counterterrorism chief and his pick for the next director of the CIA: John Brennan.

On my recent trip to Pakistan, I met with people whose loved ones had been blown to bits by drone attacks, people who have been maimed for life, young victims with no hope for the future and aching for revenge. For all of them, there has been no apology, no compensation, not even an acknowledgement of their losses. Nothing.

That’s why when John Brennan spoke at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC last April and described our policies as ethical, wise and in compliance with international law, I felt compelled to stand up and speak out on behalf of Tariq Aziz and so many others. As they dragged me out of the room, my parting words were: “I love the rule of law and I love my country. You are making us less safe by killing so many innocent people. Shame on you, John Brennan.”

Rather than expressing remorse for any civilian deaths, John Brennan made the extraordinary statement in 2011 that during the preceding year, there hadn’t been a single collateral death “because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Brennan later adjusted his statement somewhat, saying, “Fortunately, for more than a year, due to our discretion and precision, the U.S. government has not found credible evidence of collateral deaths resulting from U.S. counterterrorism operations outside of Afghanistan or Iraq.” We later learned why Brennan’s count was so low: the administration had come up with a semantic solution of simply counting all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.

The UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented over 350 drones strikes in Pakistan that have killed 2,600-3,400 people since 2004. Drone strikes in Yemen have been on the rise, with at least 42 strikes carried out in 2012, including one just hours after President Obama's reelection. The first strike in 2013 took place just four days into the new year.

A May 29, 2011 New York Times exposé showed John Brennan as President Obama’s top advisor in formulating a “kill list” for drone strikes. The people Brennan recommends for the hit list are given no chance to surrender, and certainly no chance to be tried in a court of law. The kind of intelligence Brennan uses to put people on drone hit lists is the same kind of intelligence that put people in Guantanamo. Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the “worst of the worst,” only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?

In addition to kill lists, Brennan pushed for the CIA to have the authority to kill with even greater ease using "signature strikes," also known as "crowd killing," which are strikes based solely on suspicious behavior.

When President Obama announced his nomination of John Brennan, he talked about Brennan’s integrity and commitment to the values that define us as Americans. He said Brennan has worked to “embed our efforts in a strong legal framework” and that he "understands we are a nation of laws."

A nation of laws? Really? Going around the world killing anyone we want, whenever we want, based on secret information? Just think of the precedent John Brennan is setting for a world of lawlessness and chaos, now that 76 countries have drones—mostly surveillance drones but many in the process of weaponizing them. Why shouldn’t China declare an ethnic Uighur activist living in New York City as an “enemy combatant” and send a missile into Manhattan, or Russia launch a drone attack against a Chechen living in London? Or why shouldn’t a relative of a drone victim retaliate against us here at home? It’s not so far-fetched. In 2011, 26-year-old Rezwan Ferdaus, a Massachusetts-based graduate with a degree in physics, was recently sentenced to 17 years in prison for plotting to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol with small drones filled with explosives.

In his search for a new CIA chief, Obama said he looked at who is going to do the best job in securing America. Yet the blowback from Brennan’s drone attacks is creating enemies far faster than we can kill them. Three out of four Pakistanis now see the US as their enemy—that’s about 133 million people, which certainly can’t be good for US security. When Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was asked the source of US enmity, she had a one word answer: drones.

In Yemen, escalating U.S. drones strikes are radicalizing the local population and stirring increasing sympathy for al-Qaeda-linked militants. Since the January 4, 2013 attack in Yemen, militants in the tribal areas have gained more recruits and supporters in their war against the Yemeni government and its key backer, the United States. According to Abduh Rahman Berman, executive director of a Yemeni National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, the drone war is failing. “If the Americans kill 10, al-Qaeda will recruit 100,” he said.

Around the world, the drone program constructed by John Brennan has become a provocative symbol of American hubris, showing contempt for national sovereignty and innocent lives.

If Obama thinks John Brennan is a good choice to head the CIA and secure America, he should contemplate the tragic deaths of victims like 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, and think again.

Medea Benjamin (, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Her previous books include Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart., and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide).
more Medea Benjamin

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Mary P (157)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 10:49 am
How sic has society become? To destroy innocent lives at the press of a remote control button!! Where is humanity and compassion gone to? Why have we become devoid of loving and caring for fellow human beings irrelevant of religion, country, race or cultures? Have we become heartles without souls? Is this the new role of the Super Power, America, to oppress, maime and murder innocent fellow human beings of other countries?; very soon its own people (americans) will be facing drone attacks too! :(

JL A (281)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 11:02 am
Thank you for your eloquent statement of the moral and ethical questions and issues pertinent to this issue and article Mary. A green star is headed your way.

Kit B (276)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 4:51 pm

You can bet your booties that Brennan will increase the drone attacks. This is such a sad story of a life that was cut short for no reason other than being there. Why are we doing this? Because we can and it's darn good business for those who make the "machines of murder".

JL A (281)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 5:01 pm
Kit thanks for making me think of who is making the money From Wikipedia:
Design and development considerations

UAV design and production is a global activity, with manufacturers all across the world. The United States and Israel were initial pioneers in this technology, and U.S. manufacturers have a market share of over 60% in 2006, with U.S. market share due to increase by 5–10% through 2016.[70] Northrop Grumman and General Atomics are the dominant manufacturers in this industry, on the strength of the Global Hawk and Predator/Mariner systems.[70] Israeli and European manufacturers form a second tier due to lower indigenous investments, and the governments of those nations have initiatives to acquire U.S. systems due to higher levels of capability.[70] European market share represented just 4% of global revenue in 2006.[70]

Development costs for American military UAVs, as with most military programs, have tended to overrun their initial estimates. This is mostly due to changes in requirements during development and a failure to leverage UAV development programs over multiple armed services. This has caused United States Navy UAV programs to increase in cost from 0% to 5% while United States Air Force UAV programs have increased from 60% to 284%.[71]
I'd send you a green star if I could.

JL A (281)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 7:04 am
Excellent analysis of the collateral damage to the US's reputation and negotiating strength from this policy and these actions Free! You cannot currently send a star to Free because you have done so within the last week.

Kit B (276)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 11:53 am

When watching UP with Chris Hayes this morning I learned more about this young man. He was not "accidentally" killed but was directly targeted as his films of the massive damage from drone strikes just might cause an international uproar.

JL A (281)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 12:18 pm
Thanks for providing us all with the "rest of the story" on this Kit: You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.

Mitchell D (87)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 4:54 pm
Having read down to Free's comment, it became apparent to me that this 16 year old was targeted because of the pics, or videos, he'd been taking. Sad. And, of course we make enemies this way.

JL A (281)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 5:34 pm
We do indeed Mitchell. You cannot currently send a star to Mitchell because you have done so within the last week.

Helen Porter (39)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 8:50 pm

Earth is destroying herself!

Scott haakon (4)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 9:57 pm
Get real. It has been policy for decades to kill those who are considered enemies. So you are surprised? Start living in the real world. It is a very nasty place. People want to kill Americans. This is a conflict that is a war of assassins. learn what is the real world and how it works.

JL A (281)
Monday January 14, 2013, 9:47 am
Thank you Free for addressing the specious qualities of Scott's comment that many would view as surface analysis rather than addressing the facts and realities undergirding the perspective and that such factors are not immutable. You cannot currently send a star to Free because you have done so within the last week.

Carrie B (306)
Monday January 14, 2013, 1:46 pm
And we wonder about the violence in our society? Get a grip on reality ~ the violence is not just in movies and video games ~ it is has become part of our very existence! We should expect and demand more from our government than we are receiving. Forget party affiliations ~ THINK and DEMAND morality and ethical behavior! Yes I know, I used the forbidden all caps to make my point, so sue me!

Lois Jordan (63)
Monday January 14, 2013, 1:51 pm
Previously, under another administration, we were told, "they hate us for our freedom," which was a lie. Now, they hate us for our drones...which is definitely true. My hat's off to Medea Benjamin and CODEPINK---this group has been speaking truth-to-power through amazing actions over the past several years. Brave citizens and heroes. Support them any way you can.

JL A (281)
Monday January 14, 2013, 2:04 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Carrie because you have done so within the last week.
You cannot currently send a star to Lois because you have done so within the last week.

Claudia O (73)
Monday January 14, 2013, 3:29 pm
I am sick at heart to know that we are using drones to kill and maim people without compunction. This is not what America should be about.

JL A (281)
Monday January 14, 2013, 3:39 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Claudia because you have done so within the last week.

Deborah W (6)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:06 am
Ah modern man, with all his intelligence and expertise ... how sad that we've become our own worst enemy. Push-button drones and the like, to silence the very avenues created to promote awareness and dialog towards beeded corrections and adjustments.

Stay tuned for "useful" drones in your area, touted as safety precautions ... and the rogues that will undoubtedly redirect them for their own purposes. There's always a better mouse trap on the horizon.

What a waste of time, talent and energy!

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 5:22 am
Thanks so much for sharing your eloquent musings Deborah!

Deborah W (6)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 6:23 am
Make that NEEDED corrections ... sorry!

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 15, 2013, 6:34 am
Thanks Deborah--I think most of us figured out the typo.
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