On 24th April 2013, the New York Times reported that the Department of Defence has identified 2,182 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. The paper went on to confirm the death of the most recent casualty as
AUSTIN, Barrett L., 20, Pfc., Army; Easley, S.C.; Third Infantry Division.
There have been numerous calls from anti-drone campaigners demanding that those who orchestrate targeted killing programmes should also name the victims of drone strikes.
In an interview with Channel 4 News (September 2012) Pakistani politician, Imran Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party described the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia as “immoral and insane”. He went on to cite drone strikes as “a clear violation of international laws and fundamental human rights”.
With targeted killings shrouded in secrecy and hidden behind legislation to protect only those taking lives, the public have no idea who is being annihilated. Politicians are very keen to gain public support for drone strikes yet want zero accountability for their actions.
As Imran Khan pointed out, “if the strikes are as accurate as being suggested, the identities of the victims should be disclosed for the world to see the efficacy of the drones in eliminating terrorists. We believe that these strikes are killing people indiscriminately, complete media censorship and non -disclosure of victim identities supports our assertion.”
The Washington Post confirmed further the ever growing move to hide government actions away from the public and recently identified the following after a 2 year investigation:-
The top-secret world the US, government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.
Remember it is only recently that Obama (under pressure) acknowledged that a drone programme even existed. Voters should keep this in mind… politicians are in fact servants of the people, not the other way round. We have a right to know which programmes governments are funding, the actual cost, some details of how they operate and the impact. This should also include governments being accountable for every victim of a drone strike and ensuring that each person is properly identified.
There are double standards here… We knew very quickly the names of the dead in the Boston bombing and rightly so, it was an horrific act of violence against civilians. As the recent testimony of Farea al-Muslimi to the US State Department Drone Inquiry showed, villagers in Yemen view drone strikes in the same light, deadly bombings on civilians…. Drone strikes also incite anti-Americanism
and lead to radicalization within affected communities… see video “The Real Terror Threat” http://video.msnbc.msn.com/all-in-/51653064#51653064
One organization that has attempted to identify drone victims is The Bureau Of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) who launched their “Naming the Dead” project in February 2013 and impressed many with their excellent work naming children killed in drone strikes… http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/list-of-children-killed-by-drone-strikes-in-pakistan-and-yemen-via-drone-watch/
It seems however that some lives are valued more than others. US soldiers that have died are named, civilians bombed in Boston are named, those killed in drone strikes in Afghanistan remain largely unnamed.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are quick to highlight US government hypocrisy and that of some western media, this is their comment:-
On Monday, 15th April, 2013, an incident in Boston city of America shocked the world. The heads of the states sent their condolences to the Americans. The media gave full coverage to the incident. But inside Afghanistan, the incidents of human killing occur on the daily basis and no one is paying any attention. There is neither anyone for condolence nor for sharing the grief. How long this discrimination will be continued? Whether the world and specially the American leaders will be able to realize that this world will only become the cradle of peace and stability when every human being is considered a human being?!!
As drones continue to eliminate suspects and civilians, I spoke with Carlo Christofori. He is the former Secretary of the International Committee for Solidarity with the Afghan Resistance, set up by members of the European Parliament following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He advised that we should consider the following allegations :-
The June, 2002, National Assembly (Loya Jirga) held in Afghanistan to select the head of state was rigged by the Bush administration, forcing the former king, who had majority support among the delegates, to withdraw from consideration*. This shows that the “Bush freedom agenda” was basically a sham–a political gimmick, a phony; and that Karzai is a U.S. puppet. Once he was installed, the subsequent elections, held without established political parties, were little more than a rubber stamp http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/05/22/the-latest-afpak-war/
Therefore he points out that “theirs (Islamic Emirate) is fundamentally the correct position, because the Jirga was rigged, they have right on their side, because of that one element…. violation by the Americans of the principle of self-determination.”
We know now from answers to parliamentary questions that drones are operating over Afghanistan controlled from RAF Waddington on British soil, something that I questioned in an article back in May 2011 http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/drones-over-pakistan-the-british-connection/
In a parliamentary answer from Andrew Robathan, Minister of State for the Armed Forces to Rehman Chishti. MP for Gillingham and Rainham, it is stated that “between October 2006 and 31 December 2012, UK aircrew had flown approximately 2,150 operational missions using US REAPER and PREDATOR RPAS in support of operations in Afghanistan and Libya.” Therefore the British government must also be accountable for drone deaths whether as a result of surveillance shared
with the US or directly using British UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) for targeted killings.
Returning to Imran Khan, he had this to say in his latest interview with Bloomberg in the run up to elections on May 11th:-
Pakistan must distance itself from the U.S. war by saying no more drone attacks” …. “There are about 800,000 to 1 million armed men in the tribal area. The number of militants is only 20,000 to 30,000. The moment the jihad narrative is taken away from the militants, you empower your tribal people.”
April has been designated a month of anti-drone action in the US with many events taking place across the country. Britain also has its own events. As our country is now a launchpad for killer drones, a “Ground the Drones” event will take place on Saturday 27th April at RAF Waddington with details below for those interested in participating. One issue protestors will be highlighting strongly is the importance of governments naming ALL drone victims.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.