[News] Drones and Democracy

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 18 14:29:11 EDT 2010


May 18, 2010

Hatred Rising

Drones and Democracy



On May 12th, the day after a U.S. drone strike 
killed 24 people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, 
two men from the area agreed to tell us their 
perspective as eyewitnesses of previous drone strikes.

One is a journalist, Safdar Dawar, General 
Secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists. 
Journalists are operating under very difficult 
circumstances in the area, pressured by both 
militant groups and the Pakistani government. Six 
of his colleagues have been killed while 
reporting in North and South Waziristan. The 
other man, who asked us not to disclose his name, 
is from Miranshah city, the epicenter of North 
Waziristan. He works with the locally based 
Waziristan Relief Agency, a group of people 
committed to helping the victims of drone attacks 
and military actions. “If people need blood or 
medicine or have to go to Peshawar or some other 
hospital,” said the social worker, “I’m known for 
helping them. I also try to arrange funds and contributions.”

Both men emphasized that Pakistan’s government 
has only a trivial presence in the area. 
Survivors of drone attacks receive no 
compensation, and neither the military nor the 
government investigate consequences of the drone attacks.

Mr. Dawar, the journalist, added that when he 
phoned the local political representative 
regarding the May 12th drone attack, the man 
couldn’t tell him anything. “If you get any new 
information,” said the political representative, “please let me know.”

In U.S. newspapers, reports on drone attacks 
often amount to about a dozen words, naming the 
place and an estimated number of militants 
killed. The journalist and social worker from 
North Waziristan asked us why people in the U.S. don’t ask to know more.

It’s hard to slow down and look at horrifying 
realities. Jane Mayer, writing for The New 
Yorker, (“The Predator War,” October 26, 2009), 
quoted a former C.I.A. official’s description of a drone attack:

“People who have seen an air strike live on a 
monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and 
horrifying. ‘You could see these little figures 
scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when 
the smoke cleared there was just rubble and 
charred stuff,’ a former C.I.A. officer who was 
based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack.”

“Human beings running for cover are such a common 
sight,” Jane Mayer continues, “that they have 
inspired a slang term: ‘squirters.’”

Just rubble and charred stuff

The social worker recalled arriving at a home 
that was hit, in Miranshah, at about 9:00 p.m., 
close to one year ago. The house was beside a 
matchbox factory, near the degree college. The 
drone strike had killed three people. Their 
bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could 
only be identified by their legs and hands. One 
body was still on fire when he reached there. 
Then he learned that the charred and mutilated 
corpses were relatives of his who lived in his 
village, two men and a boy aged seven or eight. 
They couldn’t pick up the charred parts in one 
piece. Finding scraps of plastic they transported 
the body parts away from the site. Three to four 
others joined in to help cover the bodies in 
plastic and carry them to the morgue.

But these volunteers and nearby onlookers were 
attacked by another drone strike, 15 minutes 
after the initial one. 6 more people died.One of 
them was the brother of the man killed in the initial strike.

The social worker says that people are now afraid 
to help when a drone strike occurs because they 
fear a similar fate from a second attack. People 
will wait several hours after an attack just to 
be sure. Meanwhile, some lives will be lost that 
possibly could have been saved.

The social worker also told us that pressure from 
the explosion, when a drone-fired missile or bomb 
hits, can send bystanders flying through the air. 
Some are injured when their bodies hit walls or 
stone, causing fractures and brain injuries.

The social worker described four more cases in 
which he had been involved with immediate relief 
work, following a drone attack. He didn’t supply 
us with exact dates, and we weren’t able to find 
news articles on the internet which exactly 
matched his accounts. Riaz Khan, an AP reporter 
covering a drone strike on May 15th, noted 
differences in details reported by witnesses and 
official sources. “Such discrepancies are common 
and are rarely reconciled,” according to Khan 
(May 15th , “Officials: US missiles kill 5 in NW Pakistan”)

Exasperated by the neglect and indifference 
people in Waziristan face, especially those who 
say they have nowhere to hide, the journalist and 
social worker began firing questions at us.

“If the US had good intelligence and they hit 
their targets with the first strike,” Safdar 
asks, “why would the second one be necessary? If 
you already hit the supposed militant target, then why fire again?”

“Who has given the license to kill and in what 
court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

“How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”

“What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, 
“where people do not ask these questions?”

Reliance on robotic warfare has escalated, from 
the Bush to the Obama administrations, with very 
little significant public debate. More than ever 
before, it is true that the U.S. doesn’t want our 
bodies to be part of warfare; there’s also not 
much interest in our consent. All that is required is our money.

But, you get what you pay for in the U.S.A. The 
social worker and the journalist assured us that 
all of the survivors feel hatred toward the 
United States. “It is a real problem,” said Safdar, “this rising hatred.”

Kathy Kelly 
(<mailto:kathy at vcnv.org>kathy at vcnv.org) and Josh 
(<mailto:Joshua at vcnv.org>Joshua at vcnv.org) are 
co-coordinators of <http://www.vcnv.org>Voices for Creative Nonviolence

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