News Release

* Escalating Drone Strikes in Pakistan * State of Libya

JUNAID AHMAD, junaid.ahmad at lums.edu.pk
Ahmad is assistant professor of law at Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and is currently visiting the U.S. He said today: “The United States launched new drone strikes on Pakistan over the weekend, causing at least a dozen deaths in the tribal area of South Waziristan.

“The attack on Sunday included two drones that fired missiles into a home and a car in the Wana district of the northwestern Pakistan tribal area near Afghanistan. Ten people were killed, and another ten wounded.

“Media reports about the attacks portrayed all of the victims as ‘suspected militants.’ This is in line with the publication last week of a detailed article in the New York Times describing how President Barack Obama determines victims for targeted assassinations and personally authorizes a number of the so-called ‘signature strikes’ — those targeted not at clearly identified ‘suspects,’ but rather at gatherings deemed to be involved in ‘suspicious behavior.’

“The report disclosed that Obama had authorized a CIA policy of classifying any combat-aged male killed in a drone attack as a ‘militant,’ in the absence of clear proof to the contrary. This approach effectively allows for the murder of any adult male in the tribal areas identified as kosher for drone strikes.

“Sunday’s attack was the seventh drone strike since the NATO summit in Chicago last month. They have included a May 24 attack on a mosque that killed 10 people during worship. A May 26 strike murdered 4 persons in a bakery where supposed militants were purchasing bread.

“The intensification of the U.S. drone attacks comes in the context of the NATO summit in Chicago last month, where the U.S. and Pakistani governments failed to come to an agreement concerning the reopening of a supply route for U.S.-NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan. The route, which goes from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Afghanistan, was closed by Islamabad in protest over U.S. air strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November.

“The supply lines through Pakistan were previously carrying over 30 percent of the materiel for the U.S.-NATO soldiers in Afghanistan and are perceived to be critically important for the withdrawal over the next two and half years of U.S.-NATO forces and their equipment.

“Also toward the end of last year, Islamabad shut down the covert Shamsi air base in Baluchistan that the U.S. relied upon to launch its drone strikes.

“Just last month, the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution stating that an end to the drone attacks will be the precondition for reopening the supply lines and calling on the United States to apologize for the killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Obama administration has rebuked both demands.

“The recent drone assaults are the most blatant expressions of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to completely subordinate itself to U.S. diktat. The period after the Chicago summit has also witnessed repeated threats in Congress to halt all aid to Pakistan as well as a propaganda frenzy over a Pakistani court’s sentencing of a CIA informant who facilitated the Navy Seal raid that assassinated Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

“It should be obvious to the world by now that these ongoing drone attacks are viewed with disgust in Pakistan, and are blamed for killing thousands, mostly civilians.”

Reuters is reporting: “In a fresh challenge to the interim government’s weak authority, members of the al-Awfea Brigade occupied the airport for several hours demanding the release of their leader whom they said was being held by Tripoli’s security forces.”

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net
Recently back from Libya and available for a limited number of interviews, foreign correspondent Erlich, author of “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire,” is currently writing a book on the Arab uprisings. He said: “The western-backed National Transition Council operates a weak and ineffective government. Some 60 militias are the real power centers. Unable to suppress the militias, the NTC uses some as auxiliary forces to be called out in time of emergency. Some are now allying with political parties, a very dangerous long-term trend because they will be much harder to dissolve.” Erlich’s article on the Libyan uprising and its political aftermath will appear in an upcoming issue of The Progressive.