A recent study confirms Pakistanis resent foreign drones prowling their skies, vaporizing their compatriots. How is this news to anyone?
Would Iranian drones blasting Hellfire missiles at wedding parties in the American heartland endear us to Iran? Maybe we need a study to figure out why we need a study to conclude what’s perfectly obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense?
by Glenn Greenwald, UK Guardian
A vitally important and thoroughly documented new report on the impact of Obama’s drone campaign has just been released by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School. Entitled “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan“, the report details the terrorizing effects of Obama’s drone assaults as well as the numerous, highly misleading public statements from administration officials about that campaign. The study’s purpose was to conduct an “independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians”.
The report is “based on over 130 detailed interviews with victims and witnesses of drone activity, their family members, current and former Pakistani government officials, representatives from five major Pakistani political parties, subject matter experts, lawyers, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists.” Witnesses “provided first-hand
accounts of drone strikes, and provided testimony about a range of issues, including the missile strikes themselves, the strike sites, the victims’ bodies, or a family member or members killed or injured in the strike”.
Here is the powerful first three paragraphs of the report, summarizing its main findings:
While noting that it is difficult to obtain precise information on the number of civilian deaths “because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability”, the report nonetheless concludes: “while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.”
But beyond body counts, there’s the fact that “US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury”:
In other words, the people in the areas targeted by Obama’s drone campaign are being systematically terrorized. There’s just no other word for it. It is a campaign of terror – highly effective terror – regardless of what noble progressive sentiments one wishes to believe reside in the heart of the leader ordering it. And that’s precisely why the report, to its great credit, uses that term to describe the Obama policy: the drone campaign “terrorizes men, women, and children”.
Along the same lines, note that the report confirms what had already been previously documented: the Obama campaign’s despicable (and likely criminal) targeting of rescuers who arrive to provide aid to the victims of the original strike. Noting that even funerals of drone victims have been targeted under Obama, the report documents that the US has “made family members afraid to attend funerals”. The result of this tactic is as predictable as it is heinous:
Secondary strikes have discouraged average civilians from coming to one another’s rescue, and even inhibited the provision of emergency medical assistance from humanitarian workers.
In the hierarchy of war crimes, deliberately targeting rescuers and funerals – so that aid workers are petrified to treat the wounded and family members are intimidated out of mourning their loved ones – ranks rather high, to put that mildly. Indeed, the US itself has long maintained that such “secondary strikes” are a prime hallmark of some of the world’s most despised terrorist groups.
Perhaps worst of all, the report details at length that the prime excuse offered by Obama defenders for this continuous killing – it Keeps Us Safe™ by killing The Terrorists™ – is dubious “at best”; indeed, the opposite is more likely true:
All the way back in 2004, the Rumsfeld Pentagon commissioned a study to determine the causes of anti-US terrorism, and even it concluded:
Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.
Running around the world beating your chest, bellowing “we’re at war!”, and bombing multiple Muslim countries does not keep one safe. It manifestly does the opposite, since it ensures that even the most rational people will calculate that targeting Americans with violence in response is just and necessary to deter further aggression.
A one-day attack on US soil eleven years ago unleashed a never-ending campaign of violence around the world from the target and its allies. Is it really a challenge to understand that continuous bombings and civilian-killing assaults over many years, in many Muslim countries, will generate the same desire for aggression and vengeance against the US?
Time and again, those who have attempted to perpetrate attacks on US soil have cited the Muslim children and other innocent human beings extinguished by Obama’s drones. Recall the words of the attempted Times Square bomber, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, at his sentencing hearing when the federal judge presiding over his case, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, asked incredulously how he could possibly use violence that he knew would result in the deaths even of innocent children — as though she were literally unaware that her own government continuously does exactly that:
Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims . . . .
I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.
The minute he was apprehended by US authorities, Shahzad, as reported by the Washington Post, “told agents that he was motivated by opposition to U.S. policy in the Muslim world, officials said. ‘One of the first things he said was, ‘How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan.’”
Perhaps most importantly, the report documents the extreme levels of propaganda used by the western press to deceive their citizens into believing pure myths about the drone campaign. As I’ve argued before, the worst of these myths is the journalistic mimicry of the term “militants” to describe drone victims even when those outlets have no idea who was killed or whether that term is accurate (indeed, the term itself is almost as ill-defined as “terrorist”). This media practice became particularly inexcusable after the New York Times revealed in May that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”
Incredibly, even after that radical redefinition was revealed, and even after the Obama administration got caught red-handed spewing demonstrable falsehoods about the identity of drone victims, US media outlets continued to use the term “militant” to describe drone victims….
Read the rest here