Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, has admitted that on March 26th, a British airstrike killed a motorcyclist who rode into its path in Syria by chance. It is the first confirmation of a civilian casualty by UK forces in the fight against Islamic State.
The unintentional death, described by Williamson as “deeply regrettable”, was confirmed during post-strike analyses of drone footage and other imagery.
The official position of the Ministry of Defence until yesterday’s announcement had been that it had seen no evidence of UK airstrikes causing civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria.
A source within the US-led coalition against Isis, however, told the BBC that he had seen evidence that British airstrikes had caused civilian casualties “on several occasions”. “To suggest they have not, as has been done, is nonsense,” the source added.
The coalition has begun an investigation and will issue a report. The airstrike was by a Reaper drone, remotely operated by pilots in the UK or at an airbase in the United States.
The defence secretary admits that RAF jets and drones have conducted more than 1,600 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq and Airwars, a group that has been monitoring civilian casualties, claimed it was likely that between 1,066 and 1,579 civilians had died in the fighting in Mosul. The US and Australia have accepted responsibility for civilian casualties. The coalition has admitted causing just over 350 civilian deaths in Mosul.
The deaths, in particular those of women and children, have helped to turn local populations against coalition forces and fuel insurgencies.
A Wimbledon reader sends news that Amnesty International has cited another civilian death: 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family’s fields with her
grandchildren in Waziristan, northwest Pakistan. ’Out of nowhere’, she was hit during a double drone strike led by the US. Mamana is one of hundreds of civilians accidentally killed by US drone strikes. Strikes that the UK has been playing a crucial part in.
Despite the lack of coverage in many newspapers and on TV bulletins, a petition has been set up, calling for the UK government to launch a full public inquiry into its role in the US’s expanding drones programme:
To join this call for a full public inquiry into Britain’s role in the US’s expanding drones programme, go to https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/uk-stop-helping-deadly-and-secret-us-drone-strikes
Does John Kerry consider the American use of Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam ‘cowardly and heinous’?
The United States has ‘form’
Sculpture by Vietnamese students of disabled child victims of Agent Orange: http://japanfocus.org/-Aaron-Glantz/2126#sthash.e3TrSGN5.dpuf
Europe and US, currently expressing horror at the killing by chemicals in Syria, must also be reminded of their sales of expertise and material for developing chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were Singapore (4,515 tons), the Netherlands (4,261 tons), Egypt (2,400 tons), India (2,343 tons), and West Germany (1,027 tons). A Singapore-based firm affiliated to the United Arab Emirates, supplied more than 4,500 tons of VX, sarin, and mustard gas precursors and production equipment to Iraq.
The Los Angeles Weekly detailed the deadly substances supplied by the US, manufactured by companies which have now changed their names or gone out of business.
According to the New York Times and other sources, the US government was fully aware of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, condoned it and continued to regard the country as an ally. The provision of chemical precursors from United States companies to Iraq was legalised by the Reagan Administration. See a fuller exposition of the US collaboration with Iraq in the ‘80s by Chip Gagnon, Assistant Professor, Dept of Politics, Ithaca College, givenat Cornell University.
Why does the US Secretary of State consider it acceptable to maim and kill by drone strike in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Yemen but ‘cowardly and heinous’ to maim and kill using chemicals in Syria?
Our NATO kills – but Britain’s mainstream media and politicians prefer to focus on police compensation claims, legal aid curbs and welfare payouts
In an obscure position on the BBC’s website (at the time of writing), 10 children and two women are reported to be among the dead following a Nato air strike in eastern Afghanistan. A further six women are believed to have been injured in the incident in Shigal district, Kunar province.
America’s month of protests against targeted drone killings is under way. The protests announced at the end of March began on April 3rd.
While the British media headlines US job figures (FT), police compensation claims (Times), legal aid curbs (Telegraph) Labour focus on welfare payouts (Observer), Owner of dog that killed Jade (Sun) the protests are highlighted in media abroad, including the Russian, Pakistani and Turkish press – the latter reporting:
“A group called Grandmothers Against the War gathered in New York City on April 3 to protest the U.S. government’s use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones . . . the founder, Joan Wile, said she had organized the rally out of a sense of horror at the effects that U.S. drone strikes are having in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan:
“I just found the whole thing so immoral . . . In this country, you’re presumed innocent until you’re found guilty. And here we were acting as judge, as jury, and executioner, without a trial.”
The April 3rd rally is being followed by three days of protest outside the facilities of companies that make drones, including at San Diego-based General Atomics (above) which makes Predator and Reaper drones.
On Friday, protesters, with a miniature drone as a prop, demonstrated in front of the La Jolla home of Neal Blue, chief executive of General Atomics and yesterday protests continued in downtown San Diego, reported in the Los Angeles Times.
Later in the month, protests will take place at universities and other institutions that conduct research into drones or help train drone pilots and operators.
At the end of the month, rallies and demonstrations will target military bases in the US from where drones operate, including Hancock air base near Syracuse, New York.