Arrival in Pakistan: The terrorism of drones
I am thrilled to represent the Fellowship of Reconciliation as a member of the CODEPINK peace delegation to Pakistan. We are in Islamabad, where we will have the opportunity to meet with survivors and victims of drone strikes, and we will caravan to South Waziristan where we will rally with the people against the wars that have come to their region through U.S. agency over the last few decades. It is long past time to make peace, to allow local nations their sovereign right to define their own laws and live in peace on their land.
For the past few years I have been deeply invested in protesting the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, that are used for surveillance and attacks. Drones are particularly convenient vehicles for what are called targeted assassinations that occur all too often in civilian areas in countries we are not at war with. It is bad enough that our country is involved in wars of choice, choosing war as a method of solving problems rather than diplomacy and discussion of differences. But today we are targeting and killing people and not even bothering to call this action “war.”
The New America Foundation, a powerful Washington think tank, will tell you that the number of strikes in 2012 has been far less than previous years. They say that no civilians have been killed in North Waziristan in 2012. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Foundation for Fundamental Rights, our host in Islamabad, tells a very different story. They have multiple forms of proof that many civilians are killed in these attacks, and many children. Over 3,000 people have been killed in drone strikes in Northwest Pakistan in the last few years, including nearly 1,000 verified civilians with names and biographies, and close to 200 children.
There is a lot of unrest in the region right now, and they say it’s all about a pornographic movie. However, there have been two periods in 2012 wherein there were continuous strikes for a period of a couple of weeks in a small area, maybe as big as the state of Rhode Island. In each case, more than 100 people were killed. The most recent flurry of drone bombings ended a couple of weeks ago. This is an intolerable situation, and a nightmare for those who live with it every day of their lives. A high percentage of the attacks have occurred in an area not much larger than a single county in the region where I live in upstate New York.
Residents of Waziristan in the northwest part of Pakistan along the Afghan border, are being terrorized by drone attacks on their homes, schools and businesses. The drones fly over their towns and villages 24 hours a day, for days on end, invisible except for a distinctive buzzing noise. Since the U.S. is not at war with Pakistan, the strikes that terrorize these people are not publicly acknowledged, though they are often talked about. The victims are not compensated, like those in Afghanistan. There are no apologies when there is an “oops.” In fact, we are told that these strikes never or rarely have an “oops.”
I hope that our delegation will be a small step towards a new understanding, and a joint effort to end this outrageous, intolerable and indefensible behavior on the part of our government.
Judy Bello is a peace activist based in Webster, New York, and a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s Task Force on the Middle East. She maintains a regular blog on U.S. foreign policy and is sharing additional commentary there on her trip to Pakistan.