January 8, 2014. Yemen. Under President Obama’s leadership, the War on Terror has turned into a war on weddings. Blowing up entire wedding parties with dozens of innocent children and senior citizens has become one of the Obama administration’s favorite tactics in waging war. It’s also one of the reasons the UN is investigating America over war crimes and the US was once again voted the world’s most hated country.
"Why did you kill my family?" the mural reads, 24 hours after the US drone strike on another Yemeni wedding. Image courtesy of AFP.
The most horrifying aspect of America’s drone strikes on wedding ceremonies is that leaks from Edward Snowden show they usually don’t even have a specific individual they’re targeting anymore. Instead, US military attacks in countries throughout the Middle East and Africa are now based on ‘profiling’. For instance, Yemen is full of Islamic militants. Wedding parties are sacred religious ceremonies full of dozens of guests and participants. Therefore, a wedding in Yemen should have at least one Muslim fighter present.
United Nations demands answers
Less than two weeks ago, the United Nations issued a demand to the governments of both the United States and Yemen. The global body is insisting both nations provide an explanation as to why innocent wedding parties in the country keep getting massacred by American drone strikes. Two more errant US attacks happened just last month.
As detailed by a Reuters report, the UN is asking both countries to first confirm they were aware of and approved the two most recent fatal drone attacks on weddings. And second, the global body and its human rights investigators want both administrations to provide the UN with a detailed explanation describing what criteria is being used to launch the unmanned, unprovoked attacks.
The request by the UN is apparently in response to the latest two US drone attacks in Yemen which reportedly occurred on December 12, 2013. Both US military assaults attacked wedding processions. The first killed 15 wedding guests and participants and the second attack on a completely separate and unrelated wedding killed 16. As is typically the case, children were among the victims. In one of the instances, US media quotes American officials saying the wedding party was mistaken for al Qaeda fighters.
"If armed drones are to be used, states must adhere to international humanitarian law and should disclose the legal basis for their operational responsibility and criteria for targeting," Reuters quoted Christof Heyns, UN special investigator of extrajudicial executions. He also took Yemeni leaders to task for seemingly signing away their own citizens’ legal protections from being executed for no reason. “Yemen cannot consent to violations of the right to life of people in its territory," he reminded the country’s officials.
Juan Mendez, a separate UN investigator of torture accusations, suggested the American drone war is similar to a war of terror, not a war against terror. "A deadly attack on illegitimate targets amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if, as in this case, it results in serious physical or mental pain and suffering for the innocent victims,” he explained.
White House confirms investigation
In a rare occurrence, the White House has not only admitted to its secret drone war around the world but has admitted that an internal review is taking place to see if any mistakes were made surrounding the above December 12 attack on the Yemeni wedding. With the rare White House confirmation came a slew of leaks to various national media outlets revealing details of the attack three weeks ago.
In a breaking report only two hours ago, RT News is quoting a number of government and media sources who are confirming the internal investigation into the wedding attacks. NBC News quoted one US official saying, “Given that there are claims of civilian casualties, we are reviewing it.” White House National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden was asked about the Dec. 12 attack and the reported White House investigation.
“Before we take any counterterrorism strike outside areas of active hostilities, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set,” Hayden said as she dismissed any wrongdoing in the Yemeni wedding strikes, “And when we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly.” That statement seems less than sincere to anti-war activists the world over who’ve protested for years that America repeatedly slaughters entire wedding parties in an attempt to assassinate one accused militant.
Yemeni officials provide details
While US officials are remaining tight-lipped regarding the details of the December drone strike, Yemeni authorities have leaked many of the details to US media outlets. As reported in the above RT News piece, Yemeni officials said the December 12 drone strike was carried out by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, not the CIA as many drone strikes are and was first suspected by local Yemeni officials in the province this particular attack took place.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Yemen government official said the target of the wedding attack was Shawqi Ali Ahmed Al-Badani. He’s a mid-level Islamic militant thought to be behind a global terror plot to attack US embassies around the world in August. Numerous American embassies were closed or evacuated, but no attacks ever took place.
The report also cites numerous Yemeni officials who insist “dangerous al Qaeda militants” were killed in the December 12 strikes. When pressed about the specific target, Al-Badani, the officials suggested he was present at the wedding but escaped without injury. NBC News reports that provincial government officials have been authorized to award the victims of the wedding attack and their families as much as $110,000 each and 100 Kalashnikov assault rifles to their tribal leaders as compensation.
US Drone War - A total mess
One Yemeni government official who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity didn’t defend his country’s actions, but instead sided with the outraged citizens of Yemen. After the strikes on the two weddings, protests erupted throughout Yemen in which American flags were burned and homemade US drones painted red, white and blue were destroyed in mock reprisals. “It is a total mess,” he told reporters, “It is completely not clear who was killed. This should be a wake-up call to everyone involved to find out what’s going on.”
One local Yemeni journalist, Nasser Al-Sane, shot video footage of the drone strike in the moments after it occurred. His camera captured images of dead bodies strewn all over the ground. He told his US media counterparts, “You cannot imagine how angry people are. They turned a wedding into a funeral.” Local officials say the victims were all farmers from the bride’s side of the wedding and ranged in age from 20 to 65.
Critics the world over have warned the Obama administration that its policy of assassinating large groups of innocent people in countries throughout the Middle East and Africa was creating a whole new generation of militants determined to retaliate against Americans. As one peace activist put it recently, ‘If some empire on the other side of the world murdered your whole family for no reason, how would you feel?’
Those fears are quantified in a recent Gallup poll published by RT News which asked the citizens of 68 nations, ‘Which country is the biggest threat to world peace?’ As always, the United States topped the list. Pakistan came in second and China third. Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and North Korea all tied for fourth place. Not surprising, countries in the Middle East and North Africa were most likely to vote the US number one. But even some friends and neighbors agreed, including Greece, Turkey, Peru, Brazil and Argentina.
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