John Oliver on Drones: It's Time to Get Serious about America's Airborne Assassinations
October 5, 2014
Lucy Steigerwald / AntiWar.com & Salman Masood / The New York Times
John Oliver, host of the HBO comedy news show "Last Week Tonight," has offered a helpful reminder that US drone strikes are still happening. On the day this episode aired, four suspected militant were killed by a drone strike in northwest Pakistan. while, earlier in the week, US drones killed 10 people in Pakistan and left two dead in Yemen (with some children reportedly injured as well). Yet barely anyone reported on these attacks.
John Oliver's Commentary on Drones
Lucy Steigerwald / AntiWar.com
"Right now we have the executive branch making the claim that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere on Earth, at any time for secret reasons based on secret evidence in a secret process undertaken by unidentified officials. That frightens me."
-- Rosa Brooks, former Special Coordinator, Defense Department, Rule of Law and Humanitarian Policy Office
(October 3, 2014) -- Last weekend, John Oliver, host of the HBO comedy news show Last Week Tonight offered a helpful reminder to the world at large that US drone strikes are still happening.
On the day this episode broadcast, four suspected militant were killed by a drone strike in northwest Pakistan. [See story below -- EAW.] Earlier in the week, as Oliver noted, the US hit Pakistan (10 dead) and Yemen (two killed, some children reportedly injured) and barely anyone reported on it. Were the individuals killed in the strikes Al-Qaeda, militants of some kind? Sure, maybe. Or maybe not. Hard to tell -- not that the US government wants us to tell.
Oliver's funny, angry piece is a great summary of the lawlessness of the US's drone policy, going from President Obama's ill-advised drone striking the Jonas Brothers joke in 2009, to the fact that "imminent threat" and "civilian casualty" mean whatever the government wants them to mean.
The highlight in terms of gut punches is footage of Yemeni civilians testifying to the psychological terror that drones bring.
Watch it or send it to people who know less about drones than you do, so that they get the picture. Iraq and Syria are a fair distraction, but we need to remember that this stuff is happening, too. Oliver gets many props for summing up the dark absurdity of the drone program in such an accessible, and grimly hilarious fashion.
(September 28, 2014) -- The United States has launched a huge number of drone strikes under President Obama. It's widely accepted and extremely terrifying.
In Pakistan's Tribal North, US Drone Strike Kills Four
Salman Masood / The New York Times
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (September 28, 2014) -- An American drone strike in northwestern Pakistan killed at least four people suspected of being militants, Pakistani officials said Sunday.
The drone strike occurred Sunday afternoon in Karikot in the South Waziristan tribal region. A vehicle parked near a house was the target, a local administration official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media. Two of those killed were believed to be citizens of Arab nations. But their identities could not be immediately confirmed.
This was the second American drone strike within a week and the first strike in South Waziristan in almost a year. On Wednesday, a drone strike in Datta Khel, in the adjacent North Waziristan tribal region, killed at least 10 people who were thought to be militants.
The Pakistani military is engaged in an offensive against militants in North Waziristan. On Sunday, the military said fighter jets had killed at least 15 militants in airstrikes on five hide-outs in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.
The Pakistan military claimed success in its campaign against militants in South Waziristan after a military offensive in 2009, but the militants still have a presence in the region.
Drone strikes are extremely unpopular in Pakistan, where they are viewed as a breach of the country's sovereignty by the United States. Human rights activists have also criticized the drone strikes, claiming that they have resulted in a large number of civilian casualties. The activists and the Pakistani government do not agree on the toll.
The number of drone strikes has decreased in recent months, but American officials have dismissed the idea that the classified drone program focusing on the volatile northwestern Pakistani tribal regions will be halted.
American officials emphasize that remotely piloted drones are an essential weapon in the hunt for militants in areas where ground troops cannot operate. The hunt is mostly for members of the Haqqani network, who have orchestrated deadly attacks against forces in Afghanistan.
Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting.
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