A new report on the December 12 U.S. drone strike that killed 12 guests at a Yemeni wedding calls on President Obama to come clean on the standards it uses to decide who lives and who dies and when drones are an appropriate weapon in the so-called “War on Terror.”
Human Rights Watch published a 28-page report ("A Wedding That Became a Funeral") in February highlighting various versions of the events that tore families apart about two weeks before Christmas 2013. One of the most relevant revelations in the study is that, as reported by The Intercept, “some, if not all, of the victims may have been civilians.”
An Associated Press story on the Human Rights Watch study reported a few additional details:
"We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounded were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians," report author Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. "They did not reply to this question.”
She added: "While we do not rule out the possibility that AQAP fighters were killed and wounded in this strike, we also do not rule out the possibility that all of those killed and wounded were civilians."
Naturally, the Obama administration tells a different story. Again, from the AP:
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said he would not comment on specific operational details. He noted that the Yemeni government has stated that the targets were "dangerous senior al-Qaida militants.”
U.S. and Yemeni officials said the target of the attack, Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, a midlevel al-Qaida leader, was wounded and had escaped.
Al-Badani is on Yemen's most wanted list and is accused of masterminding a plan for a major attack last summer. When an intercepted message revealed the plot, the U.S. temporarily closed 19 of its diplomatic posts across Africa and the Mideast. Some European missions were closed as well.
Three U.S. officials said the U.S. government did investigate the strike against al-Badani — twice — and concluded that only members of al-Qaida were killed in the three vehicles that were hit.
The story of the strike is unconscionable and would be unbelievable, were it not for the president’s penchant for adding names to a kill list and then erasing them with Hellfire missiles fired from a remote control aircraft.
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The "A Wedding That Became a Funeral" Human Rights Watch report includes the above photo (© 2013 Nasser al-San`a) showing a remnant of one of the U.S. Hellfire missiles that hit the Yemeni wedding, Dec. 12, 2013