December 31, 2012
Banishing all trappings of justice, the US is oblivious to the suffering of peace-loving civilians comprising the vast majority in Pakistan’s tribal areas
Although 2012 saw an accelerating drawdown of the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, a grim aspect of that decade-long war — reliance on air strikes by unmanned drones — continued unabated. Indeed, those attacks were stepped up, with America’s use of drone warfare in Pakistan reaching an unprecedented height over the past year. With President Barack Obama re-elected and no longer facing the pressure of a campaign, it will now be in America’s interest — and certainly in the interest of Pakistan — to use the first year of his new term to de-escalate the violence.
America’s drone strikes in Pakistan reflect an arrogant frame of mind that fails to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent, between the perpetrator and the afflicted and between the criminal and the aggrieved. By banishing all trappings of justice, this mindset is oblivious to the suffering of the peace-loving civilians who comprise the vast majority of those living in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The US drone strikes have left behind a long trail of death of innocent civilians, with no one being held accountable. These remote-controlled flying machines are programmed to decimate brutally and indiscriminately. It is shameful that a country known for its democratic values and its unparalleled commitment to human freedom should stoop so low as to kill innocent men, women and children.
As a result, instead of winning hearts and minds, the US, with the constant humming of killer drones in the air, is driving fear into every living soul in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Indeed, the bloody irony is that the strategy is utterly counter-productive; the people of the tribal areas, with their warrior past, end up joining the militants, justifying their actions as jihad against the forces occupying Afghanistan and their helpers in Pakistan.
Indeed, according to a recent report by researchers at New York University School of Law and Stanford Law School, the people in the areas targeted by the drone campaign are being systematically terrorised. The drone strategy constitutes a campaign of terror — highly effective terror in which even funerals of drone victims have been targeted. In one particularly notorious case, 40 maleks (tribal leaders) holding a jirga (tribal assembly) were burned in an indiscriminate attack.
Alongside many luminaries around the world, former US president Jimmy Carter has condemned Obama’s barbaric drone policy. However, the complicity of Pakistan’s government is equally reprehensible. According to WikiLeaks, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had approved the US drone strikes, saying: “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.” President Asif Ali Zardari went even further, saying that he did not care about the “collateral damage”.