Quotulatiousness

January 24, 2013

Pirate attacks down off Somali coast, but rising in the Gulf of Guinea

Filed under: Africa, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:23

Strategy Page counts the number of attacks by pirates in two hotspots around Africa:

Piracy attacks were down last year, returning to 2007 levels. The greatest reductions occurred off Somalia, where more effective anti-pirate patrols and escort operations made it very difficult for the pirates to even get close to merchant ships. When pirates did close in, the crews were better equipped and trained to get away. Many ships now carry some armed guards when off Somalia, who can shoot back (much more accurately) if the pirates get too close. No ship with armed guards has been taken.

Last year there were 75 pirate attacks on large ships off Somalia, compared to 237 in 2011. Last year pirates took 14 ships, compared to 28 in 2011. It’s been more than six months since pirates have taken a ship off Somalia and several large pirate gangs have simply gone out of business. Others have switched to smuggling people from Africa to Yemen. That business is booming.

There has been more piracy off the west coast of Africa, where there were 58 incidents last year. Most of this has been taking place in the Gulf of Guinea where the pirates have become bolder and are hijacking ships (which they mainly take only long enough to steal the cargo). This is not a new trend (it has long been common in Asia) but it is new for West Africa.

January 13, 2013

The “successes” of the drone war can only be measured in body counts

Filed under: Africa, Asia, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:48

In the Guardian, Simon Jenkins discusses the negative aspects of the drone war:

The greatest threat to world peace is not from nuclear weapons and their possible proliferation. It is from drones and their certain proliferation. Nuclear bombs are useless weapons, playthings for the powerful or those aspiring to power. Drones are now sweeping the global arms market. There are some 10,000 said to be in service, of which a thousand are armed and mostly American. Some reports say they have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in 9/11.

I have not read one independent study of the current drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the horn of Africa that suggests these weapons serve any strategic purpose. Their “success” is expressed solely in body count, the number of so-called “al-Qaida-linked commanders” killed. If body count were victory, the Germans would have won Stalingrad and the Americans Vietnam.

Neither the legality nor the ethics of drone attacks bear examination. Last year’s exhaustive report by lawyers from Stanford and New York universities concluded that they were in many cases illegal, killed civilians, and were militarily counter-productive. Among the deaths were an estimated 176 children. Such slaughter would have an infantry unit court-martialled. Air forces enjoy such prestige that civilian deaths are excused as a price worth paying for not jeopardising pilots’ lives.

[. . .]

Since the drone war began in earnest in 2008, there has been no decline in Taliban or al-Qaida performance attributable to it. Any let-up in recruitment is merely awaiting Nato’s departure. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has called the attacks “in no way justifiable”. The Pakistan government, at whose territory they are increasingly directed, has withdrawn all permission.

The young Yemeni writer Ibrahim Mothana protested in the New York Times of the carnage drones are wreaking on the politics of his country, erasing “years of progress and trust-building with tribes”. Yemenis now face al-Qaida recruiters waving pictures of drone-butchered women and children in their faces. Notional membership of al-Qaida in Yemen is reported to have grown by three times since 2009.

December 27, 2012

Remember this next time you hear about a drone strike on “suspected militants”

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:39

Matt Welch rounds up the actual events which were originally euphemistically described as a successful strike against “suspected” al Qaeda militants:

What enables such state-sanctioned murder? One crucial ingredient is highlighted in the next paragraph:

    Quoting unnamed Yemeni officials, local and international media initially described the victims of the Sept. 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al Qaeda militants.

Follow that link to the Sept. 2 Reuters article, and you’ll see this loaded lead paragraph:

    Five suspected militants linked to al Qaeda were killed by a U.S. drone attack on Sunday in central Yemen, in what appears to be stepped up strikes by unmanned aircraft on Islamists.

Note that “suspected” only modifies “militants”; Reuters treated as fact that the charred bodies were “linked to al Qaeda,” and part of a broader campaign against “Islamists” who don’t qualify as being “suspected.”

This isn’t just linguistic nitpicking of journalismese; this is how you midwife propaganda — straight from anonymous government sources who have a huge incentive to legitimize targeted death-dealing against undesirables, and unadorned with the kind of protective skepticism that such ultimate power (let alone fog of war) so richly deserves.

February 3, 2011

Middle East unrest spreads to Yemen

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:37

First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Yemen:

Tens of thousands of Yemenis squared off in street protests for and against the government on Thursday during an opposition-led “Day of Rage,” a day after President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to step down in 2013.

Anti-government activists drew more than 20,000 in Sanaa, the biggest crowd since a wave of protests hit the Arabian Peninsula state two weeks ago, inspired by demonstrations that toppled Tunisia’s ruler and threaten Egypt’s president.

But an equally large pro-Saleh protest also picked up steam, and supporters of the president who has ruled Yemen for more than three decades drove around the capital urging Yemenis over loudspeakers to join their counter-demonstrations.

The protests in Sanaa fizzled out by midday, with demonstrators on both sides dispersing peacefully ahead of a traditional afternoon break to chew qat, a mild stimulant leaf widely consumed in Yemen.

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