Stop Pakistani civilian drone deaths


By Alyssa Figueroa, on AlterNet in the USA:

November 14, 2012

On Drone Warfare, Pakistani Man: “We Are The People Who Do Not Matter”

(L-R) Samina Sundas, Medea Benjamin, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome discuss CODEPINK's recent delegation to Pakistan
(L-R) Samina Sundas, Medea Benjamin, Dianne Budd and Toby Blome discuss CODEPINK‘s recent delegation to Pakistan.

“We are the people who do not matter; our voices cannot be heard over here,” one Pakistani man told Dianne Budd. “We are lucky for you to be here, and we want everyone to come fearlessly here.”

Budd is a member of CODEPINK, an anti-war organization that recently led a delegation of 34 activists on a trip to Pakistan in October. Last night, the organization hosted a report back in San Francisco to discuss their experiences in a country devastated by U.S. killer drones and our continued military intervention.

“People there feel so unseen and unheard,” Budd said.

This is perhaps because people haven’t made a real effort to see or hear them. According to CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, tribal areas in Pakistan have been off limits to foreigners for ten years. And so when CODEPINK’s delegation arrived, despite threats to their lives, hundreds of people had surrounded them, staring — “almost as if we were animals in a zoo,” Benjamin said. “They were so amazed to see Americans who had come there, especially Americans who had come there to denounce the drones. And everyone wanted to touch us, take their picture with us, just interact with us.”

Members of CODEPINK’s delegation spoke continuously about the hospitality they received, and how they were greeted so warmly by the Pakistanis they visited. Benjamin recalled that when the delegation got on stage at a rally, people immediately chanted: “Welcome! Welcome! We want peace! We want peace!”

Benjamin said, “It was so beautiful just to look out there and feel that people are so open to a loving and compassionate message, they want to hear that from Americans. They want really desperately to know that there are Americans who care about their lives.”

Which may not seem like the case as our drones continue to wreak havoc on their lives. As Benjamin said, our drones hover above their skies. Families are scared to go out as well as stay home. They are afraid of sending their children to school, to go to weddings and funerals, which are often drone targets. There is also fear of holding community meetings to talk about these issues because one of their community meetings was once attacked by a drone — killing 42 of the most respected leaders in the community. The drones have also increased depression and suicide throughout the country.

“What is happening in Pakistan is totally unlike the Pakistan I grew up in,” said Samina Sundas, founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Voice Foundation.

Meanwhile, secrecy continues to surround the drone program and its effectiveness in killing militants. There is an estimate of about 2,600 – 3,400 people killed via drone in Pakistan — only two percent of which were on the U.S. government’s high-value target list. Most of the rest go unnamed and unacknowledged by the U.S. government.

The media, however, reports drones are constantly killing militants, mainly because Obama re-defined the term “militant” to mean every man of military age. In addition, CODEPINK activist Toby Blome said that while in Pakistan, she learned that some militants’ names are used multiple times in news reports to justify drone use. One Pakistani told her a militant’s name was used three times in the media, and exclaimed, “How many times can one man die?”

Still, as Benjamin noted, whether or not drones are “effective” in their mission looks past the fact that our military interventions do not create peace or stability. Pakistani people are living a life of fear under our drones as well as under the Taliban and its rising numbers. Benjamin added, “We see most people join the Taliban not out of ideology but out of despair and revenge.”

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8 thoughts on “Stop Pakistani civilian drone deaths

  1. Dear Friend —

    To get a true sense of a warzone, one must see the world through the residents’ eyes. Thus, to provide an unfiltered view of the impact of US drone strikes there, I am visiting Pakistan, where America’s drone war rages. Our goal is to produce a groundbreaking documentary on this dangerous new frontier of American foreign policy that is littered with too many outstanding legal and moral questions, not to mention the possible ramifications it has for the United States and the rest of the world going forward.

    Just as I did during my trip to Afghanistan in the process of making Rethink Afghanistan, I want to offer you an opportunity to follow along in my search for the truth. While I am in Pakistan, I will interview many drone-strike victims and key figures – from Pakistani officials in the government and military to legal experts and public health officials – who will provide insight into the on-the-ground realities of the wide-ranging effects of America’s covert drone war. It is imperative this film show the true experience of living under drones. During my trip, I will periodically report back on my observations and experiences. I invite you to follow along in the coming days at warcosts.com, Facebook and Twitter. See my first post of the trip here.

    Thank you to those who contributed to this trip. We could not take on this effort without your support. Our entire community’s continued dedication offers Brave New Foundation the ability to make an impact on the monumental issues of our time.

    Robert Greenwald

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