US drive-by drone attacks: Gunboats and gurkhas in the American Imperium

A complicit government in Pakistan, enabled by US interlocutors, continues to support US drone strikes.
by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, in an opinion piece in Al Jazeera
14 Jul 2011

”]Meet Resham Khan. The 52-year-old shepherd was brought on a stretcher to a psychiatric hospital in Islamabad in January, traumatized and unable to speak. The father of six witnessed 15 members of his extended family perish last June when a US drone attacked a funeral procession in his native North Waziristan. The atrocity has left him mute and emotionally paralyzed, his vacant eyes staring into the distance. He gave up on food and drink in the months following the attack; shortly afterward, the pious Muslim gave up on prayer too. His condition also prevented him from looking after his ailing mother who died soon thereafter. And his surviving children have suffered. When the Reuters journalist finally got him to talk, one of the few things he said was ‘Stop the drone attacks.’

Kareem Khan, too, has suffered. On December 31, 2009, his son Zaenullah Khan and his brother Asif Iqbal were among the three people killed in a US drone attack which destroyed their home in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. Kareem’s absence spared him the sight of his mutilated family; and unlike the helpless shepherd, he had the wherewithal to demand justice. In November 2010, his lawyer, Barrister Shahzad Akbar served legal notices to the CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, former Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and former Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta for $500 million in damages.  Banks, who was in Pakistan on a business visa, took fright and soon fled the scene, and the US government was so terrified of the legal challenge that last month it denied a visa to Barrister Akbar to travel to the US. More survivors have since come forward demanding justice.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani state hasn’t just forsaken the people of FATA, it has actively aided the slaughter and abetted the cover-up. After each drone strike, the Pakistani military rushes out an official who ‘on the condition of anonymity’ announces that all the dead were ‘militants’. The press dutifully reports the numbers without asking why the claim should be trusted when the state has made no effort to confirm the identity of the dead. The numbers are subsequently laundered by Washington-based think-tanks and recycled back to the media. The media then report the stats with attribution to a ‘foundation’ or an ‘institute’, giving them a pseudo-academic pedigree.

In addition, the human rights industry is either AWOL or has actively abetted the programme. In a recent appearance on Democracy Now!, the head of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth justified the attacks while waxing idealistic about the rule of law. Most have taken their cue from Harold Koh — Obama’s own John Yoo — who has declared the extrajudicial murder of the indigent thousands of miles from home ‘legitimate self defence’. The terrorized population now finds itself silenced, adrift between the Scylla of a mercenary state complicit in their oppression and the Charybdis of comprador hacks erasing their suffering. Continue reading