Drone strikes: former State Department official slams Obama administration
A retired US Army Colonel and former State Department diplomat, Ann Wright Monday lashed out at Obama Administration for the continued drone operation in Pakistan, describing these strikes illegal, in contravention of international law and a serious threat to the US national security.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
Wright, who is currently visiting the country along with a 30-member delegation of US civil society organisations to participate in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) peace march towards embattled South Waziristan Agency, said this while delivering a talk "Drones: A Threat to US National Security," at Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS).
"Of course, these (drone strikes) are a threat to the US national security and violation of the Pakistan's sovereignty," she said, adding that drones attacks are illegal and the weapon being used in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan created backlash and hatred among their peoples against the US.
Wright also served in Nicaragua, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia, and was part of the team that reopened the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December of 2001 but resigned from State Department as deputy ambassador in 2003 in protest against the US invasion on Iraq. She spent 20 years in the US military.
She opined that the US has not declared war on countries like Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen where drones are frequently used against enemy targets. There is growing concerns among the American people over the drone programme, which lacks transparency and accountability, she added. She pointed out that it was for the first time that an American official acknowledged that US has a drone programme but did not say any word about the CIA drone operations.
She called the Bush doctrine to pick any person from anywhere as a Cow Boy warfare, saying that the US government could not justify to do this in any part of the world where it has not declared wars. Wright referred to recent surveys conducted by three independent organisations, which stated that nearly 2500 to 3000 people have been killed including 400 to 800 civilians and 176 children in drone strikes. "The US is killing innocent people, women and children under the drone programme, which has no transparency and accountability," she maintained, adding that the US officials are even reluctant to speak in the US courts on the drone programme citing national security.
She, while referring to a recent report in a US leading daily, said there was agreement on the part of the government of Pakistan to these illegal drone strikes despite the fact that Pakistan's parliament has very clear resolutions against the attacks. Despite all the drawbacks, she claimed that every successive government in Pakistan has approved the drone programme. "There are written documents, which need another WikiLeaks (to reveal the facts)," she maintained.
She said that Pakistan's contribution was not being recognised despite rendering matchless sacrifices by its people and security forces in the war against terrorism. Terming drones as counterproductive, Wright said that opposition to the drone programme was one of the main reasons of the departure of former US Ambassador Cameron Munter who had concerned about the CIA-led drone operations.
In the US, she said that the administration was considering drones as more reliable than costly fighter jets for targeting and aiming US interests in the desired states and there was a growing drone manufacturing industry in the US. She said that nearly 500 companies are working in US in drone technology. It is a big business and US had sold drone worth nearly $1 billion to Nato countries, she said, adding that by 2016, the US will have 20,000 flying drones. She stated that the defence expenditure of US stands at 60 percent.
She said that drone strikes have created hatred among the local populace. When Obama came in power, it was marked as proud day and American civilians started expecting good from him, but Obama is following the Bush's policy of drone programmes, she maintained.
The former US diplomat also declared Iraq war as illegal and unjustified and considered the undeclared wars as criminal acts. The CIA has secret detention centers around the world where they interrogate and resort to torture anyone, she revealed.
About the term "militant", she argued that for the US anyone in beard wearing a turban and shalwar kameez is a militant, and US forces attack a person in this getup whether such person is attending his cousin funeral and has no link with any terrorist group. "Obama go through the list every Tuesday probably of the people who would be assassinated or prosecuted," she added.
Referring to the situation in Afghanistan, she pointed out that the country, which has a huge army deployment by the US and Nato forces coupled with its 600,000 National Army, should have been the most covered one, but irony is that it still remains the most insecure country with unabated Taliban attacks on military, diplomatic and high security installations in Kabul and rest of the country.