On Wednesday, I met with family members of Yemenis detained at Guantanamo.
Personally, I think U.S. officials are working to try to repatriate the fifty-six Yemenis in Guantanamo who have been cleared for transfer.
But after President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo didn’t come true, after waiting so long with little information, the families don’t know what to believe.
At this writing, Yemenis who have been cleared for transfer are on hunger strike.
Yemen’s human rights minister says that one of the Yemeni hunger strikers is near death.
It is a plausible danger that one of the Yemenis cleared for release will die on hunger strike, having lost faith that the U.S. will transfer him to Yemen any time in the near future.
If that happens, it would be a tragedy that could have been avoided.
That’s why we want President Obama to establish a public timetable for the transfer of the Yemenis cleared for release back to Yemen. The U.S. needs to communicate to the prisoners’ families that there is a clear horizon for sending their relatives home.
Will you join us in calling on President Obama to establish—and Members of Congress to support—a public timetable for the transfer of the Yemeni detainees cleared for release? You can sign our petition here:
Next week, I'm heading to Yemen on a delegation of US peace advocates, where we'll be meeting Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. We'll urge Ambassador Feierstein to use his influence to end U.S. drone strikes in Yemen—especially "signature strikes" in which the US doesn't even know who it is targeting—and to ensure that Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo who the US government has cleared for release are sent home without delay.
Add your voice! Sign our petition and I'll hand-deliver it—with your signature—to Ambassador Feierstein:
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Just Foreign Policy
Help support my trip to Yemen! Our delegation will help draw the media spotlight to the US's ongoing drone war in Yemen and put further pressure on the Administration to reform US drone strike policy.
During the last two presidential debates, the foreign policy discussion—what little there has been—has largely centered around the murder of four members of the US embassy staff in Benghazi. But while these four deaths were certainly grievous, the killing of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan from US drone strikes has so far been ignored—and that's outrageous.
But we may be able to change that. Next Monday, October 22, President Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in the final debate before election day—and the entire debate will be dedicated to foreign policy issues. Drones deserve a place in the discussion.
In the last four years, the use of unmanned drones to engage in so-called “targeted killing” has escalated dramatically. In Pakistan alone, US drone strikes have increased five fold during the Obama administration. Drone campaigns have also expanded in other countries, such as Yemen and Somalia, and recent reports suggest that the administration is considering further expanding the CIA drone fleet and using drones to hunt down the terrorists involved in last month's Benghazi attack.
Yet, the Obama administration has failed to engage substantively on the morality, efficacy, and accuracy of US drone strikes.
The Kucinich-Conyers amendment to prohibit the military from conducting drone strikes against unidentified targets ("signature strikes") has been made in order.
I have heard that it will be considered early.
Some things worth noting:
- Whatever one thinks about drone strikes against specific suspected terrorist leaders, nothing in the amendment would prevent them. If the amendment were law and policy, it would not have prevented the recent killing of Fahd al Quso, the senior commander of al Qaeda's wing in Yemen, who was killed in a drone strike two weeks ago; he was specifically targeted based on intelligence indicating where he was. The amendment only prohibits the military from conducting a drone strike when it does not know who it is targeting.
- The amendment only applies to the military, that is, to the Joint Special Operations Command, not to the CIA. According to press reports, JSOC is not carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan. According to the Washington Post, JSOC did not ask for authority to conduct "signature" drone strikes in Yemen, but they were granted it anyway.
- According to the Washington Post, senior U.S. officials expressed concern about authorizing "signature" drone strikes in Yemen, both because it would increase the risk of civilian casualties, and because by killing "militants" who have a dispute with the Yemeni government but not with the U.S., such strikes would increase the perception that the U.S. is taking sides in Yemen's civil war.
- Just in the last week, Yemeni officials say that a U.S. drone strike killed eight civilians in Yemen, CNN reported 5/15.