The Federal Administrative Court ruled last week that the federal government must not do anything about Ramstein’s role in the illegal US drone war. Admittedly, she probably wouldn’t have done that anyway. But the court ruling proves that the us as Röttgen should not point to others. Be yourself the change you want to see in the world.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber is a name that should be known in Germany. Along with two other compatriots, the 62-year-old Yemeni sued the federal government in 2015. The reason: His brother-in-law and nephew were killed by a US drone strike in August 2012 and subsequently branded “terrorists.” The scene of the incident was in the village of Khashamir in eastern Yemen, where at least five missiles were fired shortly after bin Ali Jaber’s son fired at least five missiles. After bin Ali Jaber and the other villagers reached the crime scene, only what was left of the victims could be collected.
“I expect and hope that the German people will feel with us. I cannot imagine that the Germans approve of Ramstein’s role in the US drone program. I call on the federal government to ensure that Ramstein is not used for illegal killings like in U.S. drone programs,” he said.
The fact that large sections of the German population would empathize, if they were informed of what was happening, is within the realm of possibility. That the political elites in Berlin face up to their responsibilities – or, to put it more bluntly, their complicity – is all the less so. Now they also received support from the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, which dismissed the yemenis' lawsuit and made it more or less clear to the public: Germany does not have to prohibit the US in the matter of drone warfare. Compliance with international law is a sniff. Instead, we continue to dismantle the rule of law of which we are supposedly so proud.
And besides, of course, we are so modern, humanistic and advanced that we are against the death penalty. However, this does not apply to the extrajudicial, suspected drone killing that regularly takes place in the Yemeni desert, in the Afghan mountains and elsewhere.
As recently as last year, the Higher Administrative Court in Münster had ruled in favour of the drone victims. At the time, it was said that the Federal Government had to examine whether Ramstein was violating international law. In addition, Germany has a duty to protect those people who could be victims of the attacks. The federal government did not like the verdict. She filed a revision – and was now successful with it.
That all existing (and freely accessible!) Facts about Ramstein’s role, or drone warfare in general, to be swept under the carpet by such a respected and important institution this time around, is indeed a scandal unparalleled – and, thanks to Corona, Biden’s victory, and the like, will still go unnoticed.
It seems all the more important to repeat some things in this context.
The American drone war is not paused, but is continuing. In fact, it is even being extended. Shortly before the US presidential election, it was announced that Trump wanted to send armed drones to Kenya. The reason must once again be the ‘fight against terrorism’. In Somalia, which has been bombed by US drones for years, the consequences of this brutal killing program are regularly seen. Civilians are regularly killed. Drone warfare on the African continent is another dark chapter of US foreign policy that directly affects Germany. After all, the headquarters of the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is located in Stuttgart. It coordinates every military operation in Africa, including drone strikes.
However, the heart of the same drone war remains in the Palatinate. Whistleblowers who once hunted people themselves and later dropped out of the drone program regularly repeat that without the air force base in Ramstein, literally nothing would work. The reason for this is a satellite relay station, which is necessary for communication with the unmanned aerial vehicles. Without this, not a single drone operation would work, as the data (primarily on aerial video footage) would reach the pilot teams in the US far too late.
In short, without Germany, Washington’s drone war would not be possible. In a classic criminal case, the facts would therefore be clear: the US is a perpetrator, Germany is an accomplice. The American weapons of manslaughter would not work without German help. However, in the existing context, this fact is not understood in the slightest. Even during Obama’s tenure, the federal government did not want to listen to journalists, whistleblowers, lawyers, and other experts, but blindly trust the word Washington. Why? Firstly, because it made things easier. Out of sight, out of mind – until no one cares anymore. On the other hand, of course, hierarchy also plays a role. The neoconservative US historian Robert Kagan once compared the US and Europe to the Roman deities Mars and Venus, which stood for war and love. The latter could not survive without the former. This hierarchy has not been dissolved, but still exists – and Germany is an important part of it. The fact that human rights and the rule of law must believe in this is less important. The Pandora’s box has been opened a long time ago.