News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Published

February 22, 2012

Written by

Emma Slater
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

BackgroundSomalia has been without a functional government since 1991.  This was when socialist president Siad Barre was overthrown by a coalition of armed opposition groups and rebels, led by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and his group, the United Somali Congress (USC).

The north-west region of Somalia split off, declaring itself the independent Republic of Somaliland. Somaliland has enjoyed relative stability, but Somalia has plunged into a raging civil war involving rival warlords and Islamist militants.  The more than two decades of violence that have ensued have devastated the country and caused the deaths of up to a million people.

The UN entered Somalia in July 1992 to provide humanitarian relief amid escalating violence. By December 1993, with the situation deteriorating, the UN asked member states for assistance. The US obliged, sending troops into Mogadishu.

But during a disastrous 15-hour battle with militiamen in August 1993, two US Black Hawk helicopters were brought down. Eighteen American soldiers died in related operations.  In the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War it is estimated that more than 700 Somali militiamen and civilians died in the battle.

Famine

This ‘failed state’ recently experienced the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa’s history, with those needing UN assistance increasing from an estimated two million at the start of 2011 to four million by September 2011. The Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit declared a state of famine in six areas in southern Somalia in 2011.

Somalia’s acting government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), was created to try and impose some sort of stability and coherence. Set up by peace talks held in Kenya between 2002 and 2004, the TFG was, and continues to be, recognised by the UN and the international community.

See the Bureau’s full data on Somalia’s hidden war 

But in its early days the TFG had little success. It was ousted in early 2006, when a conflict between clan-based militias came to an ‘uneasy truce… with the rise to power of the militia-backed Islamic Courts Union’, explained Human Rights Watch.

The ICU mirrored aspects of the Taliban. As Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reported, ‘Over the course of the summer and fall of 2006, The Islamic Courts consolidated its power in central and southern Somalia. It began to impose a strict version of sharia, or Islamic law, and shut down movie theaters, viewing centers for soccer matches and co-ed events such as sports. Cigarettes, alcohol and khat, the popular leafy narcotic chewed by Somalis, were banned.’

As the ICU marched into Mogadishu, thousands of civilians fled the capital. By mid-2006, the ICU had taken over Mogadishu, as well as much of south and central Somalia.

Abandoned tank in Somalia Sept 2007 (Carl Montgomery/Flickr)

Ethiopia invades

But the ICU’s rule did not last. In December 2006, the TFG, supported by the Ethiopian army, began a lengthy battle which would eventually defeat the ICU. At the time Human Rights Watch reported, ‘outside powers such as Ethiopia, the United States, and the European Union feared that the ICU and its radical armed youth wing, al-Shabaab, would create an Islamist bastion in Somalia’.

‘The Islamic Courts began to impose a strict version of sharia and shut down movie theaters, viewing centers for soccer matches and co-ed events such as sports. Cigarettes, alcohol and khat, the popular leafy narcotic chewed by Somalis, were banned‘ – Long War Journal 

For two years, Ethiopia fought ICU militias and the emerging al Shabaab. It was joined in January 2007 by a UN-created peace force comprising African Union troops – AMISOM (see below).

As mentioned in the Bureau’s Somalia timeline, several sources report that Ethiopia received extensive backing from the US during its invasion, with the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill calling the invasion ‘a classic [US] proxy war’.

And as 10,000 troops crossed the border, they received airborne reconnaissance support and ‘other intelligence’ from the US, the Washington Post reported.

But diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal a different story, with US officials seemingly urging caution. A December 6 2007 cable recorded US Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto warning Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi the invasion could ‘prove more difficult for Ethiopia than many now imagine’.

When the ICU was defeated and Ethiopia withdrew in 2009, some Somalis turned against the foreign invaders. Despite its harsh rule, the ICU had brought an element of stability to Somalia, having defeated the warlords and imposed Islamic religious laws.

‘It’s not just that people miss those days,’ a Somali humanitarian worker told the Chicago Tribune. ‘They resent the Ethiopians and Americans tearing it all up, using Somalia as their battlefield against global terrorism. It’s like the Cold War all over again. Somalis aren’t in control.’

The emergence of al ShabaabThe TFG had regained an element of control. But to the south of the capital, another Islamic faction was growing: al Shabaab, also known as the Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin. Originally the ICU’s militant wing, al-Shabaab forged its own identity. Its aim is to dismantle the TFG, to ‘mount sustained attacks against the transitional federal institutions and their security forces, as well as AMISOM, and to threaten the political process’, commented the 2011 UN Monitoring Group on Somalia’s report. In 2007, al Shabaab’s leaders claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda (the group formally announced this union on February 9 2012).

‘Al-Shabaab admits to the recruitment of children, who are represented among many recent deaths and defections in their forces’ – Human Rights Watch

In February 2008 the US designated al Shabaab a terrorist organisation. Al Shabaab has committed widespread human rights abuses, reported Human Rights Watch, ‘including punishments such as beheadings, amputations, stoning and beatings, restrictions on dress and freedom of movement, enforced contributions, and forcible recruitment into the militia.’ In addition, HRW says,’Al-Shabaab admits to the recruitment of children, who are represented among many recent deaths and defections in their forces’.

A representative of GarGar Foundation for Development, a charity for Somali women, told the Bureau that under Shabaab, ‘there is a lack of education, lack of health services, and there are often reports of women getting raped’.

Kenya follows Ethiopia’s leadOn October 16 2011, Kenya invaded Somalia. The invasion, codenamed Operation Linda Nchi, was ostensibly a response to three separate kidnappings of westerners by al Shabaab militants in the preceding weeks, all on Kenyan soil.

But Alfred Mutua, the Kenyan government’s chief spokesman, told the New York Times the kidnappings were more a ‘good launchpad’ than the sole reason for invasion. ‘An operation of this magnitude is not planned in a week,’ Mutua said. ‘It’s been in the pipeline for a while.’

Speaking to the Financial Times, Matua said while the Kenyan forces wanted to locate the kidnappers, their mission went far deeper: to ‘track down and dismantle the al-Shabaab’.

While cooperation with US forces was mooted by the media at the start of Kenya’s invasion, several US officials have ‘explicitly denied coordination with the Kenyan military or any contribution of direct military support,’ said Dr Micah Zenko, fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in the Atlantic. On October 25, the US stated that it was emphatically not participating in the invasion.

The invasion has not only appeared in the news, it has also been prominent in social media, with the Kenyan army and al Shabaab taking the battle onto Twitter.

As of February 22 2012, the Kenyan incursion is ongoing. The TFG’s mandate is set to expire in August 2012.

A malnourished child awaits AMISOM medical help in the 2011 drought (UN/Flickr)

Who are the non-Somali military players?

JSOCJoint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, is the elite Special Forces division that runs most US operations in Somalia.

Formed in 1980 in the wake of a disastrous attempt to free US hostages in Iran, JSOC’s role is to co-ordinate elite Special Forces personnel in the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  Its goals sound innocuous enough:

To study special operations requirements and techniques, ensure interoperability and equipment standardization, plan and conduct special operations exercises and training, and develop joint special operations tactics.

Yet since the September 11 attacks, JSOC has become a critical element of the US’s global ‘war on terror’. Its forces hunted down and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In May last year Navy Seal Team 6, part of JSOC, killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. JSOC also worked with the CIA in Yemen in September 2011 to kill Anwar al-Awlaki.

It has also been involved in more controversial actions, for example in a number of ground incursions into Pakistan which resulted in civilian deaths. 

As the Bureau’s database shows, US Special Forces were active in Somalia just weeks after the September 11 attacks. Operations initially focused on surveillance and renditions. However from 2007 onwards JSOC has carried out a number of airstrikes, drone strikes and cruise missile attacks resulting in the deaths of a number of militants. Civilians have also been reportedly killed in the attacks.

Amisom

The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is a peacekeeping force operating with the approval of the United Nations to try to stabilise the country and oust al Shabaab. It was created in February 2007 with a six-month mandate. Five years later, Amisom forces remain in Somalia. In March the European Union pledged $92m (£58m) in new funding, while the US is set to provide military equipment worth $45m to Amisom troops.

The Amisom mission has three components: police, military and civilian. The military section is by far the largest, with around 9,500 troops mainly from Uganda and Burundi. The UN has demanded that this number ‘urgently increase’ to 12,000 by October 2012. From 2009, Amisom was tasked with ensuring security in areas from which Ethiopian troops had withdrawn.

While Amisom insists its forces adhere to strict international standards, in August 2011 Human Rights Watch reported that ‘All forces involved in the recent fighting in Mogadishu… including the African Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM—have been responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war). These abuses include indiscriminate attacks, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, and unlawful forced recruitment.’

CJTF-Horn of AfricaThe Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was created to help accomplish the objectives of Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa, a US-led initiative aimed at combating terrorism and piracy in the Horn of Africa following 9/11.

Based at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti, CJTF-HOA consists of around 2,000 personnel from US and coalition armed forces, alongside around 1,200 private contractors. It conducts civil and military operations in East Africa under the command of United States Africa Command (Africom).

The Horn of Africa was widely thought to be an ideal safe haven due to ongoing border tensions, insurgencies, corruption, poverty, lawlessness, and large ungoverned spaces. The task force’s initial aim was to detect and destroy potential terrorist hideouts, to target individuals, to break logistical lines, and to directly attack groups connected to al Qaeda: essentially a ‘capture and kill’ mission.

Camp Lemmonier is not only a forward operating base for CJTF troops, it also provides a launchpad for missiles, and for unarmed and armed drones operated by the CIA and the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

By 2008, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Ted R. Bates, commented: ‘as the CJTF-HOA mission progressed it soon became clear that the Afghanistan invasion did not produce the high volume of fleeing terrorists to the Horn of Africa region that CENTCOM [Central Command] had anticipated. In fact, the Horn of Africa region contained less terrorist activity than originally feared.’

As a result, the taskforce increasingly expanded to undertake civil affairs missions, in addition to training counter-terrorism forces. However, by early 2011 the US military re-engaged heavily in Somalia. The Arab Spring uprising in Yemen also led to a significant number of US military personnel being reassigned to Djibouti.

Combined Task Force 150Created to counter terrorism, prevent smuggling, and develop security on the seas, Combined Task Force 150 has been boarding vessels off the coast of Somalia since 2007 in search of terrorist suspects.

One of three naval task forces operated by Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), participating nations have included the UK, France, Canada, Germany, Pakistan, Australia, Denmark and the US. CTF-150 operates in a two million square mile stretch covering the Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and the northern Indian Ocean.

‘Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure’ (VBSS) missions are performed on fishing boats (dhows) and oil tankers passing near the Somali coast. The aim is to ‘deter individuals with links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations the use of the sea as a potential escape route’, according to the US Department of Defense.

Published

January 20, 2012

Written by

Chris Woods and Emma Slater
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Press TV, the news channel backed by the Iranian government, is to be taken off the air in Britain, regulator Ofcom ruled today.

The station was fined £100,000 by Ofcom in December 2011, after the station hid the fact that a 2009 ‘interviewee’ was being forcibly detained in Iran. However, the station did not meet its January deadline to pay the fine.

Ofcom also requested that Press TV name on its licence the person, or body who controls its UK-based operations.

But Ofcom says Press TV failed to accede to either request. As a result, the channel will be taken off its UK platform – Sky television – today.

Rhys Hurd, press spokesman at Ofcom, told the Bureau:

‘We are revoking Press TV’s licence because editorial control does not sit with the UK licencee. We have given the broadcaster a number of opportunities to bring themselves into line, indeed we have bent over backwards to accommodate them, but they have failed to do so.’

Hurd added: ‘We have very simple ground rules. Ofcom licences around 1000 stations and the vast majority stay within those rules.’

Press TV called the decision ‘scandalous’, with CEO Mohammad Sarafraz claiming that the decision is ‘an act of aggression by the British monarchy’ which ‘will prevent the British from learning the truth’.

In an October 2011 an opinion poll on the station’s website, Press TV reported that 52% of respondents viewed Ofcom’s decision as ‘an instance of intellectual terrorism.’

In December 2011, an investigation by the Bureau, published in the Guardian, highlighted how Press TV appeared to have faked dozens of accounts of US drone strikes in Somalia which it claimed had killed hundreds of civilians.

The Bureau found no evidence of the alleged 1,370 fatalities, stemming from 56 claimed drone strikes.

Following the Bureau’s revelations, Press TV’s reporting of alleged strikes ceased for over a month, until January 6 2012.

Published

December 14, 2011

Written by

Emma Slater
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Press TV alleged that 749 Somalis were killed in US drone attacks in November alone.

Earlier this month the Bureau published an investigation into how alleged US drone strikes in Somalia were being reported by Iranian broadcaster Press TV.

In 56 reports between July and December this year, the station claimed that at least 1,370 people had been killed by US drone strikes. The state-backed station alleged that, in November alone, 749 Somalis were killed in 28 alleged US drone attacks, and at least 643 people were injured.

Now, the Bureau can reveal that since our report was published on the evening of December 2, 2011, Press TV appears to have ceased reporting drone strikes in Somalia altogether.

Research by the Bureau, published in the Guardian, found no independent evidence to verify the reports, with a senior UN official commenting:

‘Press TV is not a reliable source. It exaggerates and openly fabricates reports.’

Since the investigation was published 12 days ago, Press TV have not released a single report alleging a US drone strike in Somalia – contrasting hugely with the ‘coverage’ before Bureau publication.

In addition, the station seems to have retreated from its earlier claims of ‘hundreds’ of civilian fatalities. A Press TV article on December 5 stated that only ‘several’ civilians had been killed by US drone strikes in Somalia.

The article has now been revised to read: ‘Washington claims the airstrikes target militants, though civilians constitute the majority of the victims of such attacks.’

However, Mr Barvasad, a senior Producer at Press TV’s Iranian headquarters who heads the Somalia newsroom, denied that the discontinuation of the channel’s questionable reporting has any connection with the Bureau’s investigation.

‘It wasn’t because of your article,’ he told the Bureau. ‘There was nothing reported to us [about drone strikes]. So we didn’t cover them. If there’s anything reported to us we will cover them again.

‘I think it’s a coincidence that there are no reports over the past 12 days. The reporters haven’t been sending us any reports about attacks,’ he maintained.

The graph below shows Press TV’s reporting of US drone ‘fatalities’, and alleged numbers of people injured, in Somalia over the last 28 days.

The data shows a clear drop-off on the date of publication – this could be coincidental, as Press TV insists, or the two could be linked.

Press TV reporting of claimed Somali fatalities/injuries by alleged US drone strikes

Published

December 2, 2011

Written by

Chris Woods and Emma Slater
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Press TV claims at least 383 Somali civilians have been killed by US drone attacks.

An Iranian TV station appears to have faked dozens of accounts of US drone strikes in Somalia which it says have killed hundreds of civilians.

Press TV, which was fined £100,000 by Ofcom on Thursday after the station hid the fact that a 2009 ‘interviewee’ was being forcibly detained in Iran, has reported the deaths of more than 1,370 people in drone strikes in Somalia since September this year, of which 383 are categorised as civilians.

But research by the Bureau, published in the Guardian, has found no evidence of the alleged 1,370 fatalities, stemming from 56 claimed drone strikes.

Highly suspectThe first known lethal US drone strike in Somalia occurred on June 23 2011. A small number of similar attacks appear to have taken place since then, possibly in conjunction with operations by the French and Kenyan militaries.

The Pentagon does not comment on drone strikes, so there are no official figures for the numbers of civilian deaths. For years, the US has been carrying out other covert missions in Somalia, but started using armed drones in Somalia in June.

However the number of strikes reported by Press TV are questionable.

On September 15 2011, Press TV reported that US drone attacks on the outskirts of Kismayo town, Somalia, had killed nine women and children.

‘Press TV does have a penchant for exaggeration: in the past they have published conflict reports which, in reality, never occurred.’Tony Burns, Somali charity SAACID

It was the first of many claims of drone strike civilian deaths in Somalia. No photographic or video evidence has ever been shown in support. At least four reports are identical in all but place name and casualty numbers, and sources are only named in four of the 56 ‘drone strike’ reports.

The Bureau has been unable to identify sources Hassan Ali and Colonel Aden Dheere, described as “Somali military officials” or Mohamud Abdirahman, an “eyewitness”, despite lodging a request with the Somali Government and with Press TV’s Iranian HQ.

Related article: The Press TV claims

No representatives from the UN, Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia), NGOs or journalists in Somalia were able to confirm the strikes.Tony Burns, director of operations at Somali charity Saacid, which operates from Mogadishu, said that Press TV’s casualty figures are ‘simply not possible’.

‘SAACID’s experience has been that Press TV does have a penchant for exaggeration: in the past they have published conflict reports which, in reality, never occurred, and casualty figures that are simply not true.’

A senior UN official focusing on Somalia agreed, said: ‘Press TV is not a reliable source. It exaggerates and openly fabricates reports.’

Some organisations have, however, repeated Press TV’s claims. The Daily Nation, one of East Africa’s largest newspapers, has carried details of a number of ‘attacks’, for example. Global Research, a Canadian non-profit human rights group, has also given credence to reports.

Click here for the Bureau’s Covert Drone War investigation

While Press TV’s stories have been picked up around the globe, officials at the US embassy in Nairobi insist that the reports are ‘wholly false’. And a senior Pentagon spokesman, Lt Colonel Jim Gregory, told the Bureau that:

‘We cannot provide specific operational details; however we believe in providing timely and accurate information when possible about our activities, and we encourage all international outlets to contact us when they need assistance with their stories.  Regarding Somalia, we are supportive of the African Union Mission there and the Transitional Federal Government efforts as they continue to fight terrorism.’

Propaganda WarJeremy Scahill of the Nation recently exposed secret CIA operations in Mogadishu. He has spoken publicly about US drones operating in Somalia and elsewhere.

Scahill believed that there could be innocent reasons for the misinformation, including a ‘benign misinterpretation’ of events on the ground amid the chaos. And US attacks with other weapons – including cruise missiles or airstrikes – may be being misreported.

Alternatively the reports could form part of a targeted anti-US news campaign, said Scahill.

‘There is an extreme propaganda war going on between Iran and the US at the moment. You’ve got to assume that everyone has an agenda.’

Asked if Press TV had exaggerated the number of drone strikes in Somalia, a spokesman for Press TV in Tehran yesterday declined to comment.

The Bureau presented its findings to Press TV in Tehran. Mr Barvasad, a senior Producer at the channel, said he had ‘nothing to add’.

OFCOM fine

Exposure of the Iranian TV station’s ‘fake’ reports comes as OFCOM, the UK media watchdog, this week fined the station £100,000. In 2009 Press TV ‘committed a serious breach of the Broadcasting Code’ when it aired an interview with Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist imprisoned in Iran.

Bahari says that he was interviewed under duress for the channel, and was forced to read from a prepared script: facts which Press TV hid from its its UK viewers.

The Bahari interview may not be the sole reason behind OFCOM’s decision. In February 2010, US and British diplomats met in London to discuss ways to ‘circumvent’ Iran’s blocking of western satellite channels. A ‘WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cable revealed that the UK government was looking for ways to limit Press TV’s UK operations.

Direct contact

An insider with knowledge of the Bahiri affair told the Bureau this week that the FCO has been in direct contact with OFCOM regarding Press TV  – something which the regulator is unhappy with.

‘OFCOM doesn’t like the Government being in touch with them on casework. Such action can make them look bad regardless of which way a decision goes.’

The source insisted, however, that the decision to fine Press TV was less linked to governmental pressure and more to do with ongoing fallout from the News International scandal. The regulator intends to crack down on all absentee landlords, the source said.

The regulator is also insisting that Press TV name on its licence the Tehran-based figure who actually controls its UK-based operations, instead of the ‘stooges’ currently named. If the channel fails to do so – as some suspect – Press TV may soon be off the air in Britain.

Additional research by David Pegg.

Published

November 21, 2011

Written by

Chris Woods and Emma Slater
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Chris Cole is an activist and campaigner, pushing for accountability on armed drones. He writes the respected blog Drone Wars UK, which earlier this year uncovered details of the first civilian deaths caused by UK drones. Along with others he demonstrated outside the Unmanned Aircraft Systems conference held in London last week. 

The conference appears to be mostly benign. Inside right now, NASA is talking about scientific applications for drones, there’s very little military kit on show. Why the demonstration?

We’re here because we want to challenge the growing use of armed drones around the world. There’s almost a drone strike, not every week but every day. And it’s happening outside the public arena, there’s very little public awareness of it, and very little public accountability for it. And it’s almost as though it’s acceptable and normal, and we want to come here today to say no, the public are against drones. One of the sessions here is to ‘overcome the public hysteria surrounding drones’. And the MoD has said they need to challenge the ‘perception issue’ of drones, because there’s an instinctive reaction among the public against drones, I think…. We don’t accept this idea of remote risk-free warfare as the drone industry likes to call it. It isn’t risk free. There are hundreds if not thousands of civilian casualties of drones. The worry is drones will make war more likely in the future. We’ve seen the US this year use drones in six countries, six different conflicts simultaneously, and many military experts say that simply wouldn’t have been possible without the use of drones. But the fear is, if there is no risk, if there is no cost through using unmanned systems, then their use will only increase and we’ll see a lot more warfare in the future.

Chris Cole of Drone Wars UK – photo by Chris Woods

Why has the armed drone become so widespread?

The rise of the drone – really it’s for a number of reasons. Technological, with their ability to condense and transmit huge amounts of data wirelessly, and the availability of military satellites. Economic reasons – drones are much cheaper than traditional manned or piloted aircraft. Drones cost about $10m or $11m – Reaper drones – a traditional fast jet would be about $60m. Political reasons – ever since the Vietnam war the public is even more reluctant to go to war when they see body bags and coffins come back. There’s been a real push to make undertaking war and launching attacks risk-free. These are the claims that these guys in [the conference] are using about drones – risk-free warfare. And we of course know that that’s simply not true. Risk free to those who are operating drones, but there are many many victims of drone strikes – hundreds, maybe thousands, of victims of drone strikes.

It’s important to realise that drones are used in three different ways. The first way is just the same way as manned aircraft. If you’re about to launch an attack or come under attack, you use drones or manned aircraft as cover.

It’s the second two ways, the other two ways that drones are being used, that are really causing civilian casualties and eroding human rights and civil rights. The first is through persistent presence, as they call it. The eyes in the sky where drones are loitering over an area or a compound or a town for days or even weeks, looking for what they call ‘targets of opportunity’. Looking at suspicious behaviour. And of course, what constitutes suspicious behaviour?

We’ve seen the US this year use drones in six countries, six different conflicts simultaneously, and many military experts say that simply wouldn’t have been possible without the use of drones. But the fear is, if there is no risk, if there is no cost through using unmanned systems, then their use will only increase and we’ll see a lot more warfare in the future.

Just this week it was great to see a protest – very brave people came out in the Yemeni capital Sana’a to protest against drone strikes and remember the young 16-year-old, Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike two weeks ago, the son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was targeted for assassination.

There are constant protests in Pakistan, there are protests in the United States just this week, or two weeks ago, 38 people went on trial for undertaking civil disobedience at Hancock air force base…And here in the UK protests are growing. So the task is to resist this future of drone wars. By being here today we’re doing this, and we must continue to resist the rise of the drone.

But British soldiers are asking for more drones, our military feels safer, more secure with a drone overhead.

The best way to secure our troops is not to have them engaged in battle. When we’re bringing this technology in, if there’s more warfare it’s not going to make our soldiers more safe. Drones aren’t a solution. They’re billed as this new tool to bring security and safety, not only to our troops but to the public. And the reality is that drones aren’t what they claim to be. We’ve already seen a huge backlash in Pakistan to the drones. And we”ll see that elsewhere. Rather than bringing more security to the world, drones will bring more instability.

Some 50 countries now have drones, there are 800 models on the market – isn’t the genie out of the bottle?

Yes – the legality, the ethics of this are lagging far, far behind. Nobody in the UK seems to be willing to take responsibility for this, certainly nobody globally does except the UN special rapporteur. They put out pleas for discussion and debate on this, yet nothing is done about it. The UK MOD put out their own report looking at the moral and legal and ethical aspect, they too said there needs to be a proper debate and our parliamentarians really need to take this on board. But they just seem to be too frightened to get involved in this issue. They seem to see it as too complicated. And that’s a real worry, when the technology and the military strategy is outpacing the morality and the ethics.

The best way to secure our troops is not to have them engaged in battle. Drones aren’t a solution.

The conference chair General Israel says that it is the nature of warfare for events to run ahead of policy. And that the military will always seek military advantage. Doesn’t he have a point? 

I think it’s our responsibility to say no, to say that we have to gain control of this, because we are already seeing, you can’t just blithely say that’s the way things are when hundreds, maybe thousands of civilians are being killed, as we’re risking more and more warfare. We can’t just accept that’s the nature of the beast. We have to really challenge this if we want to make the world a more secure place. And that’s what we’re trying to do here, to bring peace and security to the world. And if the military and industry are saying ‘That’s not possible, we’ve got to seek military advantage, that’s the way things will always be’, then no. We have to do better than that.