Brennan Blows Up Another Wedding Party, This Time in Yemen

At least fifteen people were killed by a US drone strike in Yemen yesterday. It is particularly difficult to get accurate information in the immediate aftermath of strikes in Yemen, and the reports being generated now conflict in several regards, but what seems to be clear on all fronts is that the convoy of vehicles that was attacked was a wedding party.

Reuters reports the targeting of the wedding party as a mistake:

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

“An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital,” one security official said.

But the New York Times seems quite willing to accept claims that there were al Qaeda militants present in the convoy:

Most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to Al Qaeda, according to tribal leaders in the area, but there were also reports that several civilians had been killed.

The Times opened their article, however by noting that the vehicles that were hit were indeed traveling to a wedding. Yemen reporter Adam Baron noted that he also was getting reports that those killed were mostly militants:

That Baron got that report from a drone critic is especially interesting. But Baron went on to pose a very important queston:

And just to make things even more interesting, Baron tweeted this morning that he now is hearing from “tribal sources” that a teenager with US citizenship was among those killed.

The AP story carried in the Washington Post reports on the multiple accounts that exist:

There were no immediate details on who was killed in the strike, and there were conflicting reports about whether there were militants traveling with the wedding convoy.

A military official said initial information indicated the drone mistook the wedding party for an al-Qaida convoy. He said tribesmen known to the villagers were among the dead.

One of the three security officials, however, said al-Qaida militants were suspected to have been traveling with the wedding convoy.

Did you notice what AP reported the “military official” to have said? From that snippet, we see the claim that it was the drone that made the mistake in targeting, as if we already are employing drones that are capable of autonomous function. No, drones are still simply tools to deliver weapons and it was the operator flying the drone and firing the missiles who made the mistake, not the drone.

Once again, John Brennan has shown with this strike his amazing ability to carry out strikes that now and then are so depraved that they seem almost intentionally crafted to put the drone program in the worst possible light.

Spencer Ackerman gives us more on the ham-handedness of this latest strike:

Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni activist who testified to the US Senate about the impact of the drone strikes earlier this year predicted the strike would drain Yemeni citizens’ outrage over the recent attack on the defense ministry by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula that killed more than 50 people.

“The strike today literally saved AQAP’s image and shorted by months the PR work would have needed to do,” al-Muslimi said. “Nothing could have made Yemenis forget the horrible images of the attack in Sanaa more than the images of this current drone strike that targeted a wedding party.”

The USA executive director of Amnesty International, Steven W Hawkins, urged the Obama administration to ditch its policy of not commenting on drone strikes. “US silence is unacceptable. Instead of hiding behind secrecy, the US needs to acknowledge and immediately commit to investigating all credible reports of potentially unlawful killings,” he said in a prepared statement.

The United Nations special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Christof Heyns, vowed an inquiry into the incident, building on a year in which the UN has taken a far more active interest than ever in civilian deaths linked to drone strikes.

“If proven to be correct, this is very serious,” Heyns said in a statement.

A quick accounting of civilian deaths from US drone strikes in Yemen comes from Bill Roggio:

The US has mistakenly killed civilians in drone strikes in the past. On Sept. 2, 2012, the US killed 13 civilians in a strike in Rada’a, according to Yemeni tribesmen. The exact target of that strike is not known. Seventeen civilians are reported to have been killed in Yemen in 2013, and an additional 25 were killed in 2012, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Two hundred and ninety jihadists are reported to have been killed in drone strikes in Yemen in 2012 and 2013.

So by Roggio’s accounting, 42 of the 332 deaths by drones in Yemen in the last two years have been civilians. That comes to one of every eight people killed in the last two years. It would appear that in Yemen, Brennan has a pretty high tolerance for collateral damage, even before we factor in this latest strike on a wedding party.

12 replies
  1. GKJames says:

    What reasonable mind still expects the bad guys to travel in convoys on an open road? While it’s possible that they’re that dim, it’s equally conceivable, based on past practice, that Washington is prepared to take out a bunch in order to get at the purportedly “high value” one or two. Certainly no previous ruined wedding or funeral has compelled a change in the government’s conduct.

  2. bloodypitchfork says:

    quote”A military official said initial information indicated the drone mistook the wedding party for an al-Qaida convoy. He said tribesmen known to the villagers were among the dead.”unquote

    Wait…wait… a drone “mistook” the wedding party?????????????????

    WTF? Since when does a drone..THINK. How the fuck can a drone “make” a fucking mistake???? Unless I missed the memo that drones are now autonomous..this is absurd. Drones do not make mistakes. PILOTS make the fucking ..ahem..mistake, which I don’t believe a damn word the military says in the first place. I don’t know who this alleged “military official” is, but he’s a goddamned liar.

    quote:”What’s worse: a drone strike hitting a wedding convoy by mistake or a drone strike hitting a wedding convoy on purpose?”unquote

    And therein lies the truth. To quote Clinton..WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE??? Fine. I’ll posthumously notify any innocent victims that were was all a mistake. I’m sure they’ll forgive the USG.

    I’ve finally come to the conclusion our depraved US government has now gone completely fucking mad.

  3. bevin says:

    “It is particularly difficult to get accurate information in the immediate aftermath of strikes in Yemen,..”

    Primarily because any honest reporter is thrown into jail. And Yemen’s government is instructed by Obama to keep him there. This is tyranny of the lowest order.

    As to the massacre itself-what can be added?

    There is no evidence that this wedding party was anything but a wedding party. Not that that matters: killing people on the off chance that they might inspire others to think ill of the US government or that they might, if the chance should occur, attack agents of the US government or that they are opposed to the President imposed on their country by the US, is wrong.

    Killing or detaining anyone without due process is wrong.

    Why do these dog eared truisms need to be repeated?

    Why do people not realise that what happens in Yemen is bound to happen here, where we are the Yemenis.

  4. TarheelDem says:

    Someone should start questioning the motives of the information-and-action chain of personnel who keep whacking the hornets’ nest. And the continued poor intelligence about targets that seems to be tolerated by the Administration.

  5. C says:

    After it was revealed that the U.S. is relying on “turned” agents from Guantanamo Bay to provide targeting information for these strikes it begs the question: do we ever know whom we are killing?

    If this was a “signature” strike then clearly the “signatures” are useless and likely consist of nothing but “oh crap a bunch of vehicles!”. If this was one of the strikes led by a “turned” agent can we be sure he was really “turned” or may he be just using this to create chaos and make us look worse or settle some personal score?

    In either case this kind of thing should put the lie to the notion that our drone policy is helping us, let alone them.

  6. Les says:

    Maybe it was a jilted ex-boyfriend that requested the hit.

    Perhaps it was intentional on the part of the CIA to curry favor with his dad who heads a rival tribe.

  7. Jessica says:

    “What’s worse: a drone strike hitting a wedding convoy by mistake or a drone strike hitting a wedding convoy on purpose?”

    My answer would be “yes”.

  8. CTuttle says:

    Interestingly, about the sordid Levinson affair, most reports have him disappearing on Kish Island in ’07, let’s reflect back upon what was happening at that time…

    During 2007, Iran asked its petroleum customers to pay in non US dollar currencies. By December 8, 2007, Iran reported to have converted all of its oil export payments to non-dollar currencies.[12] The Kish Bourse was officially opened in a videoconference ceremony on 17 February 2008, despite last minute disruptions to the internet services to the Persian Gulf regions.

    A mere coincidence, eh…? 8-(

  9. CTuttle says:

    From FP…

    He was sent to Iran’s Kish Island, a smuggling hub in the Persian Gulf, by a team of analysts who had no authority to run intelligence operations, and who would eventually be accused by CIA investigators of hiding the fact that they were running an off-the-books spy mission from top officials at the agency.

    Luvs that ‘smuggling hub’ reference…!

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