Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni who lost his nephew and brother-in-law in a drone strike is traveling to Washington DC this week. Medea Benjamin reports that he will appeal directly to the American public and take part in the Global Drone Summit organized by CODE PINK.
Earlier, Faisal wrote a letter to both Obama and President Hadi of Yemen asking them why these people were killed. The letter expresses his anguish at the executioners-from-above. Faisal called out Hadi on his claim that “drone technology is more advanced than the human brain”,
Why, then, last August, did you both send drones to attack my innocent brother-in-law and nephew? Our family are not your enemy. In fact, the people you killed had strongly and publicly opposed al-Qa’ida. Salem was an imam. The Friday before his death, he gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qa’ida’s hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but regrettably, it was his last.
The US of course classifies most of these strikes as killing militant targets. In fact any ‘fighting age male’ caught in the line of fire is considered a militant and the burden of proof is placed squarely on the shoulders of the ones killed as a matter of policy. It’s not surprising then, that most of these strikes are classified as having killed ‘militants’. This policy is explicitly adopted by Obama who, it should be remembered. is a holder of the Nobel Peace prize. This policy alone should be enough to classify the usage of drones as a war crime. In a report by Human Rights Watch published in October
The applicability of a war model to US operations against Al-Qaeda has increasingly been called into question. Hostilities between a state and a non-state armed group are considered to be an armed conflict when violence reaches a significant threshold and the armed group has the capacity and organization to abide by the laws of war. Hostilities between AQAP and the Yemeni government have risen to the level of an armed conflict in recent years. That is less clear with respect to hostilities between AQAP and the US government. This distinction is legally important because the United States asserts it is carrying out operations against Al-Qaeda and “associated forces” to protect US interests and not because it is a party to the Yemen-AQAP conflict.
But the moral question is, what gives anyone the right to prosecute, judge and execute a human being without trial, before they commit the crime? Apparently, and this is also not surprising, the US considers itself beyond any moral, legal or humane principles.
[And I don’t see many others in the global smorgasbord protesting either]
In months of grieving, my family have received no acknowledgement or apology from the U.S. or Yemen. We’ve struggled to square our tragedy with the words in your speeches.
What adds insult to injury is that once these war crimes are committed, the authorities that be don’t really care one way or the other what happens after the fact. This was demonstrated very clearly a few weeks ago when a nine year old girl from Pakistan came to DC to ask what crime her 60 year old grandmother had committed when she was bombed in the middle of her family’s vegetable garden — to an audience of 5 Congressmen. Faisal does not understand what could have caused these ‘surgically precise’ machinse to pinpoint and kill two innocent men.
How was this “self-defense”? My family worried that militants would target Salem for his sermons. We never anticipated his death would come from above, at the hands of the United States. In his death you lost a potential ally – in fact, because word of the killing spread immediately through the region, I fear you have lost thousands.
Indeed. Blowback is not just a two syllable word that sounds funny. Faisal seems to have more intelligence than Obama and his Commanders combined. He ends with the following brutal yet truthful passage.
With respect, you cannot continue to behave as if innocent deaths like those in my family are irrelevant. If the Yemeni and American Presidents refuse to engage with overwhelming popular sentiment in Yemen, you will defeat your own counter-terrorism aims.
Some time ago another Yemeni testified in DC against the drone war. You can watch the interview in the video below.