Say Goodbye to Drones
Khalid Khokhar
2/28/2013

 

Ever since the first known US drone strike that killed 5–8 people including Nek Muhammad Wazir and two children, in Wana, South Waziristan on 18 June 2004, the United States government has made hundreds of attacks on targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghan border in Northwest Pakistan. These attacks are part of the United States' War on Terror campaign, seeking to defeat Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan. Playing in the hands of necons in the Administration, the drone strikes have increased substantially under the Presidency of Barack Obama. Some media refer to the series of attacks as a "drone war". The issue of drones seems to be very horrendous. Although, the drones are responsible for killing the top al Qaeda leadership and weakening of its organisational structure and coordination capacities, but drones kill innocent people also, therefore, it's humiliating to grant to bomb Pakistan’s cities and its tribal belt. The Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, "drone missiles cause collateral damage. A few militants are killed, but the majority of victims are innocent citizens”. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) found that till to date, over 3’500 civilians were killed by 420 drone strikes in FATA and that scores of children are reported among the deaths. In a 2009 opinion article, Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institution wrote that drone strikes may have killed "10 or so civilians" for every "mid-level and high-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leader." The Bureau also revealed that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners, tactics that have been condemned by legal experts. The strikes are often linked to anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and the growing questionability of the scope and extent of CIA activities in Pakistan.

The drone attacks have become very contentious issues in the modern-day warfare tactics. The three major developments prompted the new level of interest and scrutiny by the people and media men: Firstly, The deliberate killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen who died in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011, without any due process of law, questioned constitutional and legal authorization of the US Government, opening a most sensitive debate that has brought the issue to international spotlight: Are drone strikes against U.S. citizens legal? Are drone strikes in general good policy? The members of Congress and civil intelligentsia of the United States are demanding to know what rules the administration was using to determine who was put on the "kill list." The Justice Department objects, “an American citizen in Al Qaeda has some right to due process before the U.S. government kills him”. Secondly, during the confirmation hearings for John O. Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for Director CIA, it was observed that the drone program has been deliberately kept secret from the populations across the world. Consequently, very less media coverage has been given in keeping the American public informed about this radically different approach to warfare. The public has shown little objection to drones due to less reporting on the drone technology. A US report released this month, suggested that during Mr. Obama’s first term, “the media fell short in its coverage” of the drone program. Nonetheless, the media coverage in five major US media outlets (The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The New York Times and The New Yorker) had almost doubled since the start of that term, rising to 625 stories in 2012 from 326 in 2009. They have been instrumental in pulling back the blankets on a covert drone program overseen by an administration that is very aggressive in protecting secrets. If the public doesn’t know about the drone program, it is due to lack of coverage, keeping so many people in the dark. Thirdly, and most importantly, whether the drone strikes which are responsible of killing more than 3,500 people are creating more enemies for the United States than they are eliminating. According to the United States, the use of drone is a valuable weapon in the war against militants, as it provides a way of hitting high-profile targets hiding in the hilly areas. The analysis by the RAND Corporation suggests that "drone strikes are associated with decreases in both the frequency and the lethality of militant attacks overall and in IED and suicide attacks specifically." Nonetheless, from the Pakistan’s perspective, President Barack Obama's controversial drone programme is far too indiscriminate in hitting targets. They say: (a) Drone attacks are a violation of Pakistan sovereignty, counter productive and not helpful in the effort to win hearts and minds of people. (b) Carrying out indiscriminate killings is a violation of International law. (c) Drone attacks have made the war more deadlier dangerous, since it affects only those who are targets. (d) The strikes have a blowback effect and may help al Qaeda leaders in recruiting more militants. Scholars who have studied the political effects of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen have argued that even well-targeted raids often claim innocent victims, and the result is a backlash against the Americans. Likewise, Gen. (retired) Stanley A. McChrystal, the former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, have warned that too many drone attacks — in Pakistan, for example, where the CIA uses "signature strikes" against suspected militants without identifying them individually — can be a bad thing. "What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world," McChrystal told the Reuters news agency last month. "
In Pakistan, general public have almost gone berserk against the drone attacks by the most favorite ally in the US-led war on terror. The parliamentary committee has taken a stern and principled stance to oppose NATO's war demanding a complete stop to drone attacks as part of the new terms of engagement in Pakistan. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, demanding an immediate end to drones, unanimously passed the latest parliamentary resolution against drone attacks on the last August 28. Earlier, on February 13 last year, the National Assembly had passed resolution against drone attacks. Senate had ‘protested’ against the drone-hits in Waziristan during the month of May last year. On September 29, last year, the All Parties Conference (APC) had developed consensus over giving ‘peace a chance’ in FATA and proposed to stop drone attacks. In a recent visit to the US, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was said to have conveyed to the US that drones were ‘counterproductive.’ The drones’ issue has remained under discussion in almost every visit of the American dignitaries to Pakistan and vice versa. Reacting on the drone attacks, Marion Birch, director of MEDACT – an NGO, said: “Drones are not only unacceptable from a human, moral and legal point of view, they are traumatising families and damaging the chances of peace. We believe it is time for the government to stop purchasing, developing and deploying armed drones”. In response to the controversy over drone warfare, dozens of Western peace activists, including 32 Americans, participated in a convoy in the beginning month of this year in Pakistan to protest deadly American drone strikes in the tribal belt between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The strategic and political landscape of South Asia is undergoing a major transformation as the deadline of the withdrawal of NATO and ISAF troops from Afghanistan during the year 2014, is quickly approaching. The continuation of such as harsh and unethical approach towards war will make the task of reconciliation a bit more difficult for the governments who are desperate to pull back their troops from the unjustified campaign. In order to handover the responsibilities to the people of Afghanistan for new democratic government, peace dialogues with the Taliban faction are in progress in Doha The more media coverage against the drone strikes will form public opinion regarding the sincerity of American commitment in bringing peace and prosperity to the region.