Drone Warfare – Killing by Remote Control
www.versobooks.com Verso London*New York
But there was a problem: that word “Islamic.” Despite the ICU representing a moderate strain of Islam, the Bush Administration was convinced that the ICU was a dangerous terrorist organization that, if left in power, would give groups like Al Qaeda sanctuary.
Since US troops were bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush Administration outsourced the job, backing Ethiopia with money for a proxy invasion and backing up the Ethiopian troops with aerial attacks, including drones.
They pushed the ICU out of power—and pushed Somalia back into chaos. The moderate ICU splintered into a number of now-radicalized groups like Al Shabab, the emergence of which was then used to justify even more US intervention in Somalia in the form of stepped-up air strikes.
Al Shabab has been most active in precisely those parts of Somalia where the US and its cohorts—first Ethiopia and then Kenya—have been most active. “Somalia is an example of the US military policy gone completely amok,” said Emira Woods, director of Foreign Policy in Focus. “It helped destabilize Somalia and strengthen Al Shabab, which barely existed before the US heavy-handed response to the ICU.”
In Iraq and Afghanistan, years of war with high-tech drones did not lead to victories.
Regarding drones strikes in Pakistan, counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen and former Army officer Andrew McDonald Exum wrote in a 2009 opinion piece: “Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as the drones increased they concluded that it would be in the best interest of the American and Pakistani people to declare a moratorium on drone strikes in Pakistan.’
New York Times reporter David Rohde, emerging from seven months as a Taliban hostage in Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrote that his kidnappers’ hatred for the United States was fueled in part by civilians being killed by drones.
“To my captors;’ he wrote, “they were proof that the United States was a hypocritical and duplicitous power that flouted international law.”
Pashtun tribal culture considers face-to-face combat honorable. Firing a missile at faceless people from a bunker thousands of miles away? Not so much. And someone in tribal society who has lost his family members in a drone strike is bound by the Pashtun honor code—Pashtunwali–to retaliate and opt for badal (revenge or justice).
Opposition to drone strikes is not just in the tribal areas, but all over Pakistan. A June 2012 Pew opinion poll found an astonishing result: three in four Pakistanis (74 percent) considered the US an enemy.’ When Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was asked why there was so much animosity toward the United States, she gave a one word answer: drones.
Suspending drone strikes won’t stop Islamic radicals altogether, but continuing the unmanned killing only exacerbates the problem.
That’s because while violent extremists may be unpopular, for a frightened population they may seem less of a threat than an omnipresent, hovering enemy that at any moment could choose to eliminate one’s loved ones with a Hellfire missile. Extremists—Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Al Shabab—capitalize on that fear, casting themselves as the defenders of the people, while at the same time callously killing innocent people, local police, and armed forces, and destroying schools and infrastructure.
The brutal shooting of fifteen-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousefzai in October 2012 exposed the Taliban’s twisted mindset. The shooting backfired, igniting a global outpouring of support for this courageous young advocate of educating girls, leading to a UN declaration of “Malala Day” on November 10, 2012, and promises of more funding for schools.
More important, though, was the well of disgust that arose within Pakistan and the determination to make sure the Taliban did not succeed. Pakistanis organized rallies throughout the country; girls every-where, even in SWAT Valley where Malala was shot, expressed their determination to return to school; fathers vowed to protect the schools themselves; and citizens delivered one million signatures to the government demanding free and compulsory education.
Malala’s shooting awoke Pakistani’s silent majority who stood up and said “Enough” to the Taliban’s threats and oppression.
At the same time, this worldwide focus on Malala forced the government to undertake a nationwide search for her aggressors. While this is just one case out of so many, the spotlight helped set an example of Pakistani police and military action, civil society activism, and global support as the way forward…
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