US DRONE STRIKES CONTINUE… WHAT WILL BE THE BACKLASH?

(First Published On Personal Blog 7/1/2013)

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At the start of 2013, the US government continues to bombard Pakistan and Yemen with deadly drone strikes using its self -approved “licence to kill”. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Times recently sought a legal ruling to clarify the position on extra judicial killing. Their efforts were thwarted however when US District Court Judge Colleen McMahon of New York described herself as being caught up in a “paradoxical situation” …… “allowing the administration to claim it was legal to kill enemies outside traditional combat zones while keeping the legal rational secret”. State secrecy was placed above freedom of information and accountability in what is described as an Alice in Wonderland ruling  http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/alice-in-wonderland-drone-ruling/

The New York Times responded to this by publishing an opinion piece on what they termed the “misplaced secrecy on targeted killings” and voiced appreciation for the judge’s honesty, highlighting the following comment from Judge McMahon…

“More fulsome disclosure of the legal reasoning on which the administration relies to justify the targeted killing of individuals, including united States citizens, far from any recognizable ‘hot’ field of battle, would allow for intelligent discussion and assessment of a tactic that (like torture before it) remains hotly debated”

Across the ocean, the Radaa Tribes of Yemen took to the streets last Friday to voice their ever increasing anger at the US (five drone strikes in ten days) to protest the alleged killing of seven innocent civilians. There were threats to occupy government institutions if drone strikes do not cease and a photo I received showed al- Qaeda black flags raised in protest. Anti-drone campaigners have repeatedly argued that drones are counter -productive as they radicalize young people not only in the targeted areas but other regions further afield.

A number of cases against alleged terrorists in UK and US have pointed to the anger of the accused regarding drone strikes with some stating that seeing the impact of drones on civilians was a key factor leading to their radicalization. I was recently told of such a case by a community leader from Waziristan who had spoken to the father of a suicide bomber, the grieving relative wanting America to understand the impact drone strikes and death of civilian friends had on his son…

Additional victims that die in such suicide bombings are often not linked back to effects of US drone policy as they should be… It is difficult for researchers to explore this area. Radicalization is a highly sensitive subject and there are security issues for those trying to research in this field who may find that they come under suspicion themselves for simply writing on the subject.

Yemeni journalist Mohamed al – Ahmadi shared the following words voicing his concerns related to drone strikes:-

We have often written and other free Yemeni and American journalists have written numerous reports and stories about US drone strikes in Yemen… Many rights organizations have condemned them, and many free journalists have conducted spontaneous media campaigns… They said and we said that these American strikes on Yemen, besides being criminal extra-judicial killings according to international law, and besides being a glaring violation of Yemeni sovereignty, it will also produce opposite results. No one listened, but Yemeni tribes will not remain quiet either. The initiative of the Radaa Tribes who went out in the streets today raising al-Qaeda flags was first, but it is expected to expand. We will see the flags of al-Qaeda flying everywhere… and you will remember what I am telling you.”

There was anger too in Pakistan at the killing of militant commander Mullah Nazir who died along with several others as drones pounded South Waziristan.  Seen by the US as a terrorist with “a great deal of blood on his hands” he was also viewed by some in the Tribal Areas as “good Taliban”. Nazir’s men concentrated their fight on Afghan soil and avoided targeting army and civilians within Pakistan. Nazir also initiated an offensive against Uzbek fighters, said to have the approval of the Pakistan militaryhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20896839

I received the following statement from a member of Wazir tribe informing me of the strike which killed Nazir though I have been unable to independently verify alleged deaths of all those mentioned. I have left the message exactly as I received it:-

“I have listened that total number of them are six persons including Commander Nazir and Amir Rafa khan ,Attaullah,Ihsanullah ,Kochai and the other guy name I do,nt remember but an hour ago their funneral are performed togather in Azam Worsak and it said that thousand of people participate in the funeral … I think that it will effect the peace agreement wihih was signed amid the Govt of pakistan and the local Taliban and again they will target the pak army and the taliban will stop the development work and if they will do it the govt will must react and will start the military operation which will effect the civil lives and I just listen now that MR Bawal khan is Appointed to replace Mulvi Nazir and Mr Taj is Appointed to replace his cousion Rafa khan…

Dear it’s not controversy it’s truth and the are my neighbors and I just contacted and I have been told that the people are very upset and grieve with the death of Mullah Nazir and Rafa khan and today in Wana bazar the whole business was stopped.”

The following piece from a local blogger (name withheld in case of reprisals) seems to sum up the feelings of many in the Tribal Areas caught between a rock and a hard place:-

I would like to tell you that I am never in favour of militancy of Taliban or any other. I never support or like militant activities whether of Mullah Nazir or someone other. I am a big critic of such things. You can find in my articles and blog.

I think we all are agree at the point that their militant activities are liked/supported neither by you nor by me. I am saying it loudly that:
“Militancy is never good. We neither like nor support it.”

But here I just pointed out that how much this person (Nazir) was brave, couragious and clever. I said several times that this is the few aspects of his personality. When I was with him for a few hours for an interview, I was thinking that why did he got this position, the head of Taliban in South Waziristan. I found the reasons that he got the title of “pro-government Taliban commander”.

He controlled because he was well aware of the situation, that people will be destroyed if somebody other than him controlled. That’s why he signed several peace agreements and turned off fighting against Pakistani forces.

Hopefully you may get it now that I doesn’t mean his militancy. I just mean his personality. Many people might not like his in personal too. But I said that the characteristics shown in the photo were in his personality. In short; this is what I found in him.”

Yesterday I heard that further drone strikes involving a series of missiles have just killed between 7 and 18 people in the Babar Ghar area of South Waziristan… the focus was thought to be a militant training camp. Two local journalist have informed me that “its 9 deaths not higher” and that “also killing of Qari Hussain’s Successor identified as Wali Mohammad also known as Toofani has been targeted”.

As mentioned in previous articles there are additional negative outcomes from drone strikes such as militants halting the polio programme until drone strikes are stopped. There have also been murders of polio vaccination workers (covered in an earlier article on my blog) but it is unclear who exactly is responsible.

Then there is the execution of alleged spies that are paid to place GPS devices to guide drones to targets. Impoverished locals or those with a grudge may be inclined to take up the offer of 350 US dollars but if caught could pay with their life. I was also told of people on the ground in Pakistan using lazers again to highlight targets and an alleged instruction manual though have not seen evidence of this to date. Those in Tribal Areas explained to me how those seen as “informants” are removed quickly by militants, along with any evidence, tortured, sometimes made to participate in confession videos and killed which is shown here in New York Times film…http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/12/29/world/asia/100000001978140/drone-spy-wars.html

Last year I received a video from Yemen which claimed to be of the crucifiction of an alleged drone spy.

On Saturday, thousands of Tribesmen turned out to protest  the killing of Mullah Nazir in “Black Day”. According to DAWN “more than 3,000 tribesmen, carrying black flags, marched towards Azam Warsak, around seven kilometres (four miles) west of Wana and passed a resolution against the US”. The past decade has shown that however many alleged militants are killed, the suicide bombings continue… and at times increase after drone strikes. Campaigners fear there will be further reprisals following recent drone attacks. Pakistani politician Imran Khan, a long standing opponent of target killing has once again strongly condemnd the latest strikes and calls for drones to be grounded in 2013http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/R1x1tGYMqsshU0DWbwqzXM/Ground-the-drones-in-2013.html There are always emerging successors to take over from deceased insurgents and sadly no shortage of newly radicalized youth prepared to train at the next militant camp wherever it is set up… Drone strikes are ultimately self –defeating and can never be justified.

 

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”.

 

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