2012-2013 Fulbright-Humphrey Fellow
University of Minnesota
April 2013

Good day to everyone. Peace be with all of you.

Thank you for inviting me to this very important gathering. I am awed to be speaking along with Ms Coleen Rowley, a Times Person of the Year, a woman who can make this government tremble, if she has not done so  already.

I am not about to belabor the point that the drone warfare committed against Pakistan violates that country’s sovereignty and self-determination rights. I am not about to belabor the point that the drone warfare is in the words of Jimmy Carter illegal, immoral, a blatant violation of international law, a  human rights violation. This has been said over and over again by different people in different places. Using international law to argue with the United States might not work against American exceptionalism or more particularly American exemptionalism.  Exemptionalism is in the words one scholar,  “American unwillingness to impose on itself general international rules that the US government in  principle accepts as just.” So it stands there on a lofty platform criticizing the human records of other countries based on international law to which it does not hold itself accountable. This unmitigated drone warfare against Pakistan and other weaker countries is a telling proof  that the United States does not consider itself bound by international law which requires that States should respect the sanctity of the borders of other states.
The United States does not consider itself bound by the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which requires that States should respect the rights of all peoples to self-determination and of all individuals  to the right to life. This Great Country played a key role in drafting this international human rights law which was unanimously adopted by the international community in 1966. It took Jimmy Carter to become President before the US signed it in 1977.  And yet, another  15 years had to lapse before  the Senate ratified it in 1992. But the ratification was as good as non-ratification.  Annexed to the  ratification was “an unprecedented number” of reservations, understandings, and declarations  that exclude the United States from compliance with the treaty. The US also declared that the ICCPR is not enforceable within its courts without enabling domestic legislation. Other countries thus asked if the United States is really a treaty party.  So what  is the significance of the ratification? The record of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations  indicates that the committee  thought that without ratifying the treaty, the   United States’   criticism of   the human records  of other countries  would smack of hypocrisy. Ratifying the treaty   also enables the United States to take part in the Human Rights Committee in monitoring States’  treaty compliance  and therefore make the human rights records of other States its business. 

So I will not talk about international law beyond what I said. I  would rather look at the standard by which the United States would like the legitimacy of its actions to be judged. Time and again, the Obama administration has claimed that the Authorization For  the Use of Military Force justifies the President’s drone warfare. We all know that this was a 
joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, three days after the terrorist attacks. The provision authorized the  President  to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the U.S. by such nations, organizations or persons.
It has been more than a decade since 9/11. Bin Laden is already out of the picture. But the thirst for blood has not de-escalated. The Taliban is   no longer as imposing, no longer as seemingly invincible as it  used to be. Although it is not too dead to even generate its own apparition,  it is no longer as seemingly powerful as it used to be.  And yet, the Obama Administration continues to invoke the AUMF. Many of the current targets of the drone warfare did not plan, authorize, commit or aid in the commission of the 9/11 tragedy.  The AUMF, which is merely a resolution and does not have the permanent character of a legislation,  was never meant to target the new generation of the Taliban  or Al Qaeda or any new terrorist group. And yet, the United States government is reportedly identifying alleged members of such groups who were too young to have had  a  hand in the 9-11 attacks. Needless to state, even the innocent are not spared. I am not about to count the  children- some of them infants-  killed by the drones. How do you justify this under the letter and spirit of the AUMF, even assuming that it is in effect?

AUMF is now virtually a dead law. The United States Constitution gives the war-making power to Congress and no law has been passed delegating this power to the President. In my view, there is no domestic law which justifies President Obama’s drone warfare.

The madness has to stop  before it spreads.  The drone warfare did not spare the Philippines which is supposed to be one of your country’s strongest allies. In  the  July 6, 2012 issue of  New York Times, an  article by Mark Mazzetti called
The Drone Zone claimed that the United States has conducted at least one drone strike in Mindanao in 2006.  The drone fired a “barrage of hellfire missiles” in the “jungles of the Philippines”in an attempt to  kill Indonesian Bali-bomber Umar Patek. The strike failed to kill Patek but others died in the process. He was recently convicted by an Indonesian court to 20 years for his role in the Bali Bombings. The author claims that his sources were three current and former United States intelligence officials. Earlier, it was reported that such drone strike was a Philippine military operation. Subsequently, the Philippine military denied that such a strike ever took place. So up to now, we do not the names of the so-called collateral damage.

This is not the lone  incident. Late last year,  a drone was discovered in the waters near Masbate province. Filipino activists claim that "we now  have a situation where a foreign power can fly anytime and anywhere it wants, undertake surveillance, and on occasion, even participate in actual combat operations." We fear that the United States may have  unrestricted movement in Philippine airspace. And our government is always ready to take responsibility for such actions. It is not only the American people who are fed lies and half-truths.

This is serious. Drones are not toys and foreign territories like the Philippines and Pakistan are not playgrounds. More than a century ago, Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest leaders said: “Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure.” This was a prophecy and we are witnessing its fulfillment in the present.

Let us all work together to stop the madness before our sanity becomes imagination, and madness becomes the truth.

'Land The Drones’ Fight Picks Up Steam In Minneapolis
    In this Sept. 4, 2009 file photo, a KZO surveillance drone takes off from the German base in Kunduz, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)
    In this Sept. 4, 2009 file photo, a KZO surveillance drone takes off from the German base in Kunduz, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)
    “St. Bonifacius gets it!” said FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley, known for exposing intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, while addressing a crowd that had gathered in the social hall of St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Minneapolis on April 6 to protest drones and war.

    “They realized drones are targeted on us and have banned drone surveillance. They need to do this in Minneapolis and every other city.”

    What Rowley was referring to was the announcement that the Twin Cities-area town of St. Bonifacius, which has about 2,300 residents, had become one of the nation’s first cities to ban the use of drones, sort of.
    The city banned drones from city airspace up to 400 feet, but since higher altitudes are managed by the federal government, high-flying drones would be legal, and the city allowed some exceptions, including drone usage for emergencies and search warrants, as well as individuals using drones over their own property.
    Drones have reportedly never been used in the city, but Mayor Rick Weible said the arrival of aerial drones in the city’s airspace was imminent, and he didn’t want the new technology used against citizens of St. Bonifacius.
    “When I look at the potential uses of drones, I have an obligation to my residents to defend their Fourth Amendment rights,” he said.

    Though Weible says he would be open to purchasing a small, remotely piloted aircraft with an infrared camera to help firefighters in their search for trapped persons in burning buildings, but says a lack of leadership at the federal and state level regarding drones gave him too many reservations.

    Weible has said that part of the reason the city implemented the ban was to spark a public debate about the issue in Minnesota. “There seems to be a rush to use this new tool within the U.S., but our state and county laws are fairly  silent on the issue right now,” he said.

    The timing of the drone ban in St. Bonifacius could have not been more appropriate, as on the same day, the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition (MPAC) hosted an event as part of month-long, nationwide protests against the use of drones internationally and nationally.
    While the point of the gathering was to raise awareness about wars and drone usage, some speakers like Mel Reeves, a member of Occupy the Hood, told the crowd: “You know the evils of drones and war, now I want to inspire you to do something about it.”

    “It may seem improbable to stop drones and war, but it’s not impossible,” Reeves said. “War is immoral, drones are immoral. These [politicians] are not like me and you. The way they kill folks? With a combo of napalm and shrapnel and cluster bombs, is gross!”

    Drones are here — what do we do about it?

    During her speech, Rowley discussed the “lies and terms that have been hijacked” in the Department of Justice’s White Paper on drones, which “sets forth a legal framework for considering the circumstances in which the U.S. government could use lethal force in a foreign country.”

    She stressed to the audience that they had to be careful to not repeat the lies used in the white paper while discussing the issue, as doing so would make them part of the propaganda machine. The lies Rowley was referring to included using alternate words for actions, such as “enhanced interrogation” instead of “torture”; “targeted killing” or “lethal operation” instead of “assassination”; and said “national security law” was used as a euphemism for “unlawful, illegal national security actions.”
    Rowley stressed that education about drones is important, giving the example that although murder is illegal in foreign countries, the last four pages of the white paper document make a public authority exemption to murder. “This is why you have to know what you’re up against,” she said.
    Cheryl Daytec, a Filipino human rights lawyer and activist and fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, agreed with Rowley and said the U.S. criticizes human rights abuses of other countries, but forgets about those human rights laws it violates. She dubbed this act “American exceptionalism.”

    Daytec shared that while looking for Indonesian terrorist, Umar Patek, in 2006, the U.S. attacked the Philippines — a nation that is supposed to be a large ally of the U.S. — with a drone strike. “The strike didn’t kill the terrorist, but [civilians],” she said, continuing on to say that countries like Pakistan, Yemen and the Philippines are not a playground for the U.S. to experiment with drones.

    “[The U.S.] kills a lot of innocent people,” stressed Reeves. “[Politicians] don’t kill who they say they’re going to kill,” he said, adding that the U.S. qualifies an acceptable amount of civilian deaths as part of the war on terrorism.

    How many drones does it take to create and maintain a democracy?

    About 76 countries have drones, but only three nations have used them so far: the United States, United Kingdom and Israel.

    Groups like MPAC and the Anti-War Committee, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Veterans for Peace and Women Against Military Madness, stress the importance that the public know and understand that drones are used on American citizens and not just internationally. The use of drones on American citizens is why St. Bonifacius also called for a two-year statewide moratorium on drones until the public can weigh in on how the technology will be used, and whether its images and other data can be used as evidence in court.
    “Police have policies and procedures on all of the actions that officers take with firearms,” Weible said. “I want to be sure that we’re holding drones to that same level.”
    Though the ban likely won’t affect the large military drones that would fly in airspace controlled by the federal government, and are equipped with weapons and high-altitude cameras, usage of ordinary drones, remote-controlled flying vehicles that can be the size of a basketball and cost$25,000 or less, will be.
    As a local Minneapolis poet, Misty Rowan, said during the event, it takes about 300 people to operate one drone for one day. She answered the million dollar question in Washington on how to fix the budget, by recommending that the government “land some drones, man.”

    Rowan also lightly suggested that we may soon see bumper stickers that say “No dolphins or citizens were harmed in the making of this democracy.”

    The Federal Aviation Administration currently allows about 325 police departments, universities and government agencies to use them to catch crooks, patrol borders, search for missing children and study crops with drones. Other professionals that have either considered using drones or have used drones include realtors and journalists.
    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised concerns about government use of drones, citing the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable search and seizure. In early February, Charlottesville, Va., became the first city in the U.S. to pass an anti-drone ordinance.

    “This is great technology, but we’ve got a keen interest in protecting privacy and civil rights for our citizens,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “The question is how we’ll do this and balance it all out.”
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