The United States has “donated” €1,185,000 to the Lo Porto family in compensation for the death of their son, Giovanni. With this action, the United States closes the case of the aid worker killed by a U.S. drone in Pakistan in January 2015.
A donation in memoriam, as reiterated Friday by the American Embassy after the newspaper La Repubblica revealed the agreement signed on July 8 by a diplomat in charge of putting a tombstone on the matter.
However, the drama remains open, despite Washington’s disclaimer, which it attached to the donation stipulating that this was not compensation and could not be connected to any future legal action. “This does not imply the consent by the United States of America to the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Italian courts in disputes, if any, directly or indirectly connected with this instrument,” the embassy said.
And that’s that.
But for his relatives, the wound still bleeds because the money does not explain the fatal mistake that killed Lo Porto and his fellow prisoner, Warren Weinstein (apparently held by an al Qaeda group), and it is not clear if the administration has acknowledged it.
Lo Porto’s mother stated: “I can no longer see my son and his smile. When they killed my precious son, they killed me, too, and now all I have left is to wait for the last day of my life for divine justice, since there is no justice on earth.”
Margherita Romanelli, a representative from GVC, a non-governmental organization with which Lo Porto had long collaborated, said: “It is good that Giovanni’s parents got the money, but we will not give up. We want to know the whole truth on the matter. They can disguise it as they’d like, but there would be no donations without real responsibility, and the money is a clear proof of compensation. We ask this case to be clarified through the courts, with an inquiry to shed light on the case and find out what exactly happened and what were the mistakes that led to his death.”
Senator Luigi Manconi (the same one who closely follows the Giulio Regeni case) is asking for the same thing. Just a few months ago, after Obama’s public acknowledgment of the deaths of Lo Porto and Weinstein, he had joined the family in their demands for compensation and the truth. But the latter will hardly come out, tucked behind the veil of protection of “national security.”
Lo Porto’s payoff will not be the first nor perhaps the last donation/compensation by the Americans to silence those cases in which drones have killed innocent civilians.
Possibly the most famous case was the one of Faisal bin Ali Jaber. A Yemeni official had slipped him $100,000 in cash, but Faisal refused the payoff, preferring to go to court. In April, he challenged the decision of a federal district court in Washington, which rejected his case in 2015. He wanted to determine whether the drone attacks that killed his brother Salem in August 2012 were legal. The other victims of the attack were an anti-jihad imam, and his nephew Waleed, a police officer. The case continues to cause controversy and gained the support of three U.S. military veterans who worked in the drone program. They said they “witnessed a secret, global system without regard for borders, conducting widespread surveillance with the ability to conduct deadly targeted killing operations.”
In many cases, the drone attacks are “signature strikes,” a euphemism for the U.S. practice of killing targets based on a pattern of behavior rather than on any actual intelligence about who the victims are.
Of course, that hasn’t always been the case, but in April 2015 (the same year Lo Porto was killed), the Wall Street Journal revealed that Obama had relaxed the rather rigid rules on drone attacks, which had been approved in 2013, to allow the CIA to hit the Pakistani jihadists with greater “flexibility.” As for the American justice system, it always follows the same script. In the Faisal case, a federal judge rejected the lawsuit against the administration, even after a strike in Yemen claimed the lives of three U.S. citizens in 2011.
In another case in Yemen, according to the NGO Reprieve, Washington agreed to pay $1 million to the families of 12 victims of a drone attack during a wedding in 2013 in order to avoid legal actions.
And if the U.S. decided to pay more than $1 million for the death of one Italian citizen — the highest amount ever paid for the victim of a drone strike — then there seems to also be an unfortunate racist aspect, in addition to political expediency and diplomatic relations with allies.
As Valerio Pellizzari wrote in his book In Battle When Grapes Are Ripe, the lives of “others” cost very little: “A dead Afghan is worth $3,000. But it is a theoretical figure. … It is not paid in foreign currency but in chattel, in packages that may contain goods ranging from solar panels to electric irons … delivered to villages where there is no electricity. There is a strict and twisted … humiliating … procedure to receive these donations and the transportation costs of the packages often exceed the value of the transported material.”
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