Somalia is a counterterrorism planner`s dream.

“We’ve moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles … to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper.”

… there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.

PredatorReaper

Predator MQ-9 Reaper

These predator drones are now being deployed over East Africa and the adjacent waters, based by the US in the Seychelles. At present we are told the drones are unarmed, and are part of anti-piracy surveillance. But that is only the toe in the door. The CIA uses these drones for extrajudicial killings in Pakistan, a country that is supposedly a US friend, and with whom the US is not at war. In Pakistan the CIA is probably assassinating some genuine international terrorists. It may also be assassinating innocent individuals, or local political leaders. The CIA appears accountable to no one in the US or the world at large for these actions. In all cases these are assassinations.

The CIA and the US Africa Command now appear ready to expand this predation in East Africa, most likely in order to continue efforts to destabilize Somalia (called stability operations). The US has been pushing the notion that Islamist fighters in Somalia are allied with al-Qaeda. There is no real evidence for this, see the commentary about halfway+ down this page, in response to a comment. But since it is repeated over and over in the US media, many people believe it. Just as the New York Times pushed the bogus story of weapons of mass destruction before the Iraq war, it is pushing the supposed link between al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab.

From the:

UNITED NATIONS: US drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the UN’s top investigator of such crimes said. “My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he [UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston] said.

“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.

… you have the really problematic bottom line that the CIA is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws,” Alston said.

Since August 2008, around 70 strikes by unmanned aircraft have killed close to 600 people in northwestern Pakistan.

“I would like to know the legal basis upon which the United States is operating, in other words… who is running the program, what accountability mechanisms are in place in relation to that,” Alston said.

“Secondly, what precautions the United States is taking to ensure that these weapons are used strictly for purposes consistent with international humanitarian law.

“Third, what sort of review mechanism is there to evaluate when these weapons have been used? Those are the issues I’d like to see addressed,” the UN official said.

b real provides more research in his africa comments, where you can read in more detail the information from the following sources:

AP: US drones protecting ships from Somali pirates

Military officials said Friday the drones would not immediately be fitted with weaponry, but they did not rule out doing so in the future.

Analysts said they expected the Reapers would also be used to hunt al-Qaida and other Islamist militants in Somalia. While Moeller said the aircraft would “primarily” be used against pirates, he acknowledged they could also be used for other missions.

“The long-term solution to the piracy issue is basically [us] getting the conditions right in Somalia,” he said.

More information about the Reaper here: MQ-9 Reaper Hunter/Killer UAV

… the [Reaper] aircraft can carry up to 14 Hellfire missiles, compared with two carried on the Predator. The Reaper can stay airborne for up to 14 hours fully loaded.

Trading off some of the missiles, Predator B can carry laser guided bombs, such as the GBU-12. MQ-9 is equipped with both Lynx II SAR and the MTS-B 20″ gimbal, an improved, extended range version of the MQ-9′s EO payload. The availability of high performance sensors and large capacity of precision guided weapons enable the new Predator to operate as an efficient “Hunter-Killer” platform, seeking and engaging targets at high probability of success.

The Wikipedia entry adds:

Then U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley said, “We’ve moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper.”

The New York Times adds its voice to the war machine fear mongering: In Somalia, a New Template for Fighting Terrorism. The NYT starts with the popular but unsubstantiated assertion that: “Al-Qaeda is working feverishly to turn Somalia into a global jihad factory”.

So a new template for fighting terrorism may be emerging as the United States shows less desire to get involved in the local intricacies of nation building and more interest in narrowing its focus to Al Qaeda. …

To Mr. Nagl, in fact, Somalia is a counterterrorism planner`s dream, with its desert terrain, low population density and skinny shape along the sea; no place is more than a few minutes` chopper flight from American ships bobbing offshore. “It`s far, far harder to do counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan than in Somalia,” he said.

And from an abstract of Jane Mayer’s article in the October 26th issue of The New Yorker: The Risks of the CIA’s Predator Drones: The Predator War:

Hina Shamsi, a human-rights lawyer at the New York University School of Law … said of the Predator program, “These are targeted international killings by the state.”

The Predator program, as it happens, also uses private contractors for a variety of tasks, including “flying” the drones.

According to a new study by the New America Foundation, the number of drone strikes has gone up dramatically since Obama became President. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the defense contractor that manufactures the Predator and its more heavily armed sibling, the Reaper, can barely keep up with the government’s demand.

there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy.

Somalia will make a convenient African practice field for targeted killings by robot assassins. There is no government to stand up for the Somali people in this, especially as the United States claims to be the one standing up for Somalia. As Mr. Nagi said above, Somalia is a counterterrorism planners dream. As long as Somalia is kept destabilized, aka stability operations, it will be an easy target.

Somalia is just the beginning, it may have oil, but it looks like there is a lot more oil in the African great lakes region, beginning with the recent finds in Uganda. Southern Sudan has oil and is the site of US corporate and international land grabs. The DRC has vast quantities of minerals including 80% of the world’s coltan. Its mineral resources are considered a US strategic interest. That is why the US helped overthrow Lumumba and installed Mobutu, dismissing Mobutu’s 30 years of failed government as an African problem. For US purposes, Mobutu was a success, he was a faithful client. When he was no longer useful, the US helped overthrow him.

The term terrorist is evolving to mean anyone who questions or stands up to the US in its quest to coopt and control oil, minerals, and other natural resources, or who stands up to the forces of global capitalism. A “terrorist” is a political or economic opponent, only a few of them have violent intentions towards the US.

A robot assassin looks like just the tool to eliminate an obstructive political opponent. It appears risk free and cost free to the US. Few outside the neighborhood will care about the collateral damage, the many innocent civilians killed at the same time. The term terrorist is necessary to give political assassination a figleaf of legality.

From africa comments:

… US targeted killings of Al Qaeda terrorists is a legal act of self defense under international law. (You can get a free pdf download, here, at SSRN, “Targeted Killing in US Counterterrorism and Law.

… US law and regulation contains a ban on “assassination.” Assassination in that specific legal sense is prohibited – but also not defined in US law or regulation. However, successive administrations dating from the 1980s have taken the position – e.g., the speech in 1989 to which the article refers – that a targeted killing is not (prohibited) “assassination” if it meets the requirements for self-defense under international law, including self defense against terrorists.

The Reaper may be a perfect tool for global capitalism to assassinate and decapitate any growing movements and civil society groups with economic or democratic aspirations. Jeremy Keenan reminds us that an estimated 55% of the world population are left out of global capitalism, neither producers or consumers. Many of these live in Africa. If these people continue to be marginalized, the profits and benefits will continue and increase for the elites controlling their resources now. So the elites have strong incentives to prevent and crush democratic movements.

Jeremy Keenan describes this use of the war on terror and the reason for the Africa Command in: Demystifying Africa’s Security:

[The] Bush administration decided to use a military structure to secure access to and control over African oil and opted to use the GWOT as the justification, rather than acknowledging that US military intervention in Africa was about resource control.

emphasizing the threat posed by the marginalised and excluded, Africa’s ‘dangerous classes’, and the role of aid and ‘development’ … merging the development and security agendas so that the two have become almost indistinguishable

The securitisation of Africa has been further promoted by drawing attention to the association between underdevelopment and conflict and the various discourses on ‘failed states’, which, in no time at all, were linked directly to the 9/11 attacks. It took only a few steps – from ‘poverty’ and ‘underdevelopment’ to ‘conflict’, ‘fear’, ‘failed states’ and the black holes of the ‘ungoverned areas’ – to recast Africa as the ‘Heart of Darkness’ and to transpose the GWOT into its vast ungoverned spaces: the DRC, Sudan, Somalia and EUCOM’s infamous ‘swamp of terror’, the Sahara.

Far from bringing ‘peace and security’ to Africa, AFRICOM is directly instrumental in creating conflict and insecurity.

Social scientists unfamiliar with the new ‘security development’ discourse may find its emphasis on ‘security’ and ‘development’ seductive. What more does Africa need? However, as Abrahamsen (2005) has already pointed out, London and Washington have used this discourse to link Africa’s underdevelopment with the threat of terrorism. And the regimes of Africa have followed suit: many are now using the pretext of the GWOT to repress legitimate opposition by linking it with ‘terrorism’. … Above all, the ‘security-development’ discourse explicitly links Africa’s poor, her ‘dangerous classes’ as Abrahamsen calls them, the marginalised and excluded to international security ‘problems’ and ‘terrorism’.

And so the war on terror becomes the war on the poor and marginalized, the “dangerous” classes. Keenan gives us a number of examples of countries in Africa where this is already happening. If the US is using the Reaper to kill, and is not engaged in open war with a country, it is using the Reaper as a tool of political assassination, killing opposing leaders and their families to control the economy and the politics.