Friday, June 22, 2012

Aerial Attack Kills A Red Cross Worker In Yemen As Obama Denies Drone Program Exists

Business Insider
Michael Kelley

A worker for the international Red Cross was killed by a bomb dropped from the sky on Tuesday while undertaking humanitarian work in the Abyan province of Yemen, BBC reports.

The death raises the issue that the U.S. offensive in Yemen and specifically its drone program — the existence of which the Obama Administration is currently denying in court — is killing innocent civilians because President Obama's "kill list" considers "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants ... unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent."

Hussein Saleh, a 35-year-old Yemeni who was expecting his fifth child with his wife, was killed while assessing the humanitarian situation in Abyan (which has been severely affected by recent fighting).
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated it was "deeply shocked and dismayed" by the death of Mr. Saleh and a Red Cross spokeswoman said that they were unsure whether it had come from Yemeni forces or a drone attack.

A local official told Reuters that the Yemeni air force had conducted the strike, but as Al-Akhbar English notes, "Yemeni officials often claim to carry out airstrikes that are actually conducted by the U.S. to shield Washington from blame."

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) points out that "precision night-time strikes on moving vehicles, whilst often attributed to the Yemen Air Force, are more likely to be the work of U.S. forces."
Meanwhile the Guardian reports that the Obama administration is currently attempting to block the release of documents related to its use of drones, claiming that releasing information would hurt national security while denying that the secretive program of targeted killing exists.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Times both submitted freedom of information (FOIA) requests to the Department of Justice, CIA and Pentagon seeking information about the program and now have gone to court to try and force the government to release details of its activities.

From the Guardian:

"The notion that the CIA's targeted killing programme is still a secret is beyond absurd," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. "Senior officials [including President Obama] have discussed it, both on the record and off. They have taken credit for its putative successes, professed it to be legal, and dismissed concerns about civilian casualties."

The BIJ estimates that there have been 33-43 confirmed drone strikes in Yemen (with 54-64 strikes unconfirmed) that have reportedly killed 317-921 people, including 58-139 civilians (24 children).
The killing of a humanitarian worker is the first overt example of "explicit intelligence posthumously proving" that an innocent civilian has been killed.

ProPublica has an ongoing report titled "Obama Administration’s Drone Death Figures Don’t Add Up" in which they track the government's admissions of civilians deaths. They report that the government "believes there were zero or almost zero civilian deaths between the beginning of 2008 and August 2009" and "August 2010 and July 2011" despite 182 strikes during those time periods.

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