Wednesday, April 20, 2011

UPDATE: DRONES, BODY COUNT and The Dark Side of Christian History: By Yale Theologian

UPDATE: US President Obama has given the go ahead for drones to strike Libya (Image: Getty) (my comment: So do we have a democracy or another "kingship"? Where is our Congress and the US people here? Who is allowed to decide where the drones fall?)

US drones: lessons for Libya from Pakistan
- GOOD FRIDAY 22 April 2011
As the US approves armed drone attacks on President Gaddafi's forces in Libya, Channel 4 News looks at America's record of drone strikes in Pakistan, believed to be led by the CIA.

With the Pakistani state at war with the Pakistani Taliban, its government is complicit in the use of drones.

Despite complaint that the attacks are an infringement of Pakistani national sovereignty, the government provides a great deal of intelligence for the attacks.

The number of drone attacks has ramped up under President Obama, to an estimated 166. So far that is a 300 per cent increase in the number of drone attacks in Pakistan compared to those during George W Bush's presidency.

The US Defence Secretary confirmed today that Mr Obama has now given the green light for Predator drone attacks to go ahead in Libya.

However, US drone attacks have previously been criticised for failing to kill a significant number of militant leaders, despite their ability to perform a highly targeted, intelligence-based warfare.

Channel 4 News has also investigated the legality of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) involvement with the drone attacks in Pakistan.

Read more: Pakistan drone warfare - special report here

Death rate

The number of people killed in 2010 by American drones is thought to be between 607 and 993, yet of those the New America Foundation has estimated that just two per cent of the deaths were senior Taliban or al-Qaeda figures.

In the last 12 months there have been at least 113 attacks by secret US drones in Pakistan’s mountainous Waziristan region – double the number of strikes in 2009.

The foundation's director Peter Bergen told Channel 4 News earlier this year that most victims of the attacks are low level militants.

"So the question is, do those people really represent a threat to the United States or its allies, and in my opinion, they don't," he said.

The rate of civilian casualties meanwhile is thought to be dropping – from around 20 per cent in 2004 to around 6 per cent in 2010.

Since their increased usage in 2009, drone attacks have come under heavy criticism.

CIA involvement

The legality of drone strikes in Pakistan and the alleged role of the CIA has been brought into sharp focus after it was reported that Jonathan Banks, the CIA's station chief in Islamabad, was pulled out of Pakistan after his cover was blown.

He was blamed by tribesmen from North Waziristan for the deaths of their relatives in the drone strikes.

The CIA does not admit or deny that it conducts drone attacks on Pakistan or any other country, but it is widely suggested that "covert" strikes in tribal areas were controlled by CIA from bases in America, some 8,000 miles away from the target.

Pakistan drone strikes: the CIA's secret war
Another Body Count on the drones
The Drone War that George Bush declared and Barack Obama escalated on Western Pakistan is at a temporary standstill. Is it over? By no means--in fact, the hard numbers prove quite the contrary. Each successive year, the number killed has increased as noted in prior updates.

2004: 5
2005: 7
2006: 23
2007: 77
2008: 313
2009: 724
2010: 993
2011: 47 (to date)

Total: 2189
Bush Era: 413
Obama Era: 1776 (as of Jan 23 2011)

Found at All Voices dot com with this line: "Not exactly an effective method to win the "hearts and minds" of those perceived to be against us."
Original Publication: The Christian Century
Author: Volf, Miroslav
Date posted here: April 20, 2010 (especially for Holy Weekend)

WITH ITS LONG coastline, rugged mountains and haunting sand dunes, Oman is truly a paradise for desert lovers, hikers and boaters alike. Muscat, the capital city, is a gem- its arched white buildings and flat roofs squeezed between blue waters of the ocean and black rocks of the mountains.

I was traveling with my sons, and at one point Nathaniel remarked, "Dad, this was the best vacation we ever had!" I thought of the sea turtle laying eggs and covering them with its flippers, of my sons frolicking in the Wadi Tiwi's clear waters and sliding down the long slopes of sand dunes, of hundreds of dolphins surrounding our boat, of the red snapper my younger son, Aaron, caught. I agreed with Nathaniel.

Call me an egghead, but what I remember most from the Oman experience is a booklet with an ominous title: Body Count (2009). Its subtitle tells a fuller story: A Quantitative Review of Political Violence Across World Civilizations. For Christians, the surprise comes when author Naveed Sheikh concludes that "the Christian civilization emerges as the most violent and genocidal in the world history." Compared to Islam, Christianity is a clear winner: 31.94 million deaths (by Muslims) to 177.94 million deaths (by Christians).

I'm not convinced that the numbers are correct. For instance, Sheikh describes Nazi genocides (16.31 million dead) as Christian. One might as well call communists Christians. Similarly, the author is silent about the long, brutal and bloody march of Ottoman Turks through the Christian lands in the 14th to 17th centuries, from Asia Minor all the way to the Alps. It will be important for those competent in world history to carefully examine this body count. But even if we slash the numbers on the Christian side and add some to the Muslim side, the scale of violence committed by Christians throughout history is mind-numbing.

I read the booklet about the body count on a beach near Muscat. A short distance to the north, across the Gulf of Oman, is Iran. Tensions with Iran have been escalating over the past few years, and a peaceful resolution doesn't seem to be in sight. On Oman's western border is Yemen, a base of operation for alQaeda and now a potential target of a Western attack. To the northeast is Pakistan, and on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan as well as in Afghanistan itself a full-blown war is going on. To the north, of course, is Iraq.

Consider this: If we apply the criteria for just war that great Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas have developed (conceding for a moment that the more stringent demands of Jesus to "turn the other cheek" don't apply to world affairs), we must conclude that the war in Iraq is unjust (as I argued in this magazine before the Iraq war started); the war in Afghanistan is unjust (and serious injustice is being committed in the course of waging it- for example, by the use of drones); a war against Iran would be unjust; a war against Yemen would be unjust.

That would be four unjust wars***, all of them waged by a country whose population is predominantly Christian. Flanked by people from other religions as well as some atheists, Christians are widening the body count gap.

Travel with me back in time some six centuries. On May 29, 1453, Ottoman armies led by the young and ambitious sultan Mehmed II entered the imperial city, which bore the name of the first Christian emperor and had stood as the center of Eastern Christendom for over a thousand years. The sack was brutal, but for those who survived it, the prospect of what was to come seemed even worse. Now that the walls of this "New Rome" had given way to enemy cannons and its streets had been overrun by enemy soldiers, Rome- center of Western Christendom since the time of the apostles- was in danger as well. Many feared that the whole of Europe might face the fate of Constantinople.

At that time, two options presented themselves to the Europeans in response to the fall of Constantinople and the rise of the Ottoman power. One option had been tried before throughout the centuries, with varying degrees of success: organize a crusade. A second option was to engage in a dialogue, a response that was new and untested. Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (1405-1464), who became Pope Pius II, was the most vigorous and persistent advocate of a crusade. The writings of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), who earned a cardinal's hat, most ably represent the call for dialogue. Both prominent churchmen were Renaissance humanists, and they were friends.

Why did Nicholas choose conversation over crusade? He had a friend, John of Segovia, a professor at the University of Salamanca, whom he met at the council in Basel in 1433. Unlike Piccolomini, John knew Islam and Muslims, and he believed that "war could never solve the issue between Christendom and Islam." Nicholas came to share that view.

It's fair to say that Nicholas prevailed. It is not just that the pope died during a failed attempt to organize a crusade (the last one in history) and that Cardinal Nicholas's writings, especially his little book on the peaceful harmony of religions, continued to inspire and guide. Nicholas won in a more significant sense; for one thing, his was the option that was in sync with Christian principles; for another, he was proven historically right in his convictions about how to deal with the threat of expanding Islam. What explains Western ascendency over the past six centuries is not the power of guns, but the power of ideas forged in vigorous dialogue.

Author affiliation:

Miroslav VoIf teaches at Yale Divinity School.

( Find more by Volf just posted at oneheartforpeace here )


  1. Today the primary human problem, the core issue that defeats human history, is both revealed and resolved. It is indeed a “good” Friday. The central issue at work is the human inclination to kill others, in any multitude of ways, instead of dying ourselves—to our own illusions, pretenses, narcissism, and self-defeating behaviors. Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “in place of” but “in solidarity with.” The first is merely a heavenly transaction of sorts; the second is a transformation of our very soul and the trajectory of history.

    Richard Rohr Meditation on Good Friday April 22, 2011

  2. ANOTHER WAY to STOP unnecessary Body Count:

    April 22, Earth Day: We Must Stop Climate Catastrophe By Dr Gideon Polya

    We are one species confined to one planet and we revel in the richness of nature and human cultural diversity. The peace and cooperative community we commonly experience at the level of village, town, city and nation should apply internationally throughout Spaceship Earth

    And be sure to watch Counter Currents for other items many mainstream media groups fail to cover.

  3. Obama Sends Drones To Libya
    As Britain Readies Troops
    By Bill Van Auken

    The Obama administration has joined Britain and France in a major escalation of the war against Libya that entails the deployment of US drones, intensified bombing and the preparation of an invasion force