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Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Drone attacks in Pakistan

By Iman Sohail:

The mainstream media has largely avoided discussing a surreptitious military operation that has existed by the order of the Bush administration since 2004; drone attacks in Pakistan. The ‘playstation mentality’ of targeted killings that serves as an immoral and exceptionally inhumane notion of combating identified high-risk terrorists, still remains questionable in terms of its legality.

Since 2004, an estimate based on the reported drone attacks has caused the death of 3,341 people in Pakistan. Statistically, only 2% of these deaths were of high-level, high profile “terrorists”. Therefore, 98% of the remaining deaths were of Pakistani civilians, including children, the elderly and alleged combatants.  The attraction of drone attacks is primarily justified by the fact that there is no deployment of troops and any subsequent casualties. But at who’s cost? Each of the civilians dead from the attacks, who become so easily deemed as collateral damage in the name of War on Terror, had a story, a family, a life. Although in 2013, Obama acknowledged the incidents of civilian casualties, he stated that, ‘the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes’.  So essentially, although the US’ anti-terror military operations have a recognized similar outcome to the acts of terrorism, it is fundamentally justified as long as the number of civilian deaths is less?

Furthermore, the extremely low success rate of such a cruel anti-terror manoeuvre completely violates the due process clause of the Constitution, for both the high-level terrorists and civilians. The Pakistanis killed by remote are not given any form of a fair trial, with the final decision being made by military figures and not by judges. The notion of our fight against terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda or the Taliban cannot simply eliminate the legal parameters designated for all human beings.  Upon this, the United Nation’s Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has expressed great worry over the drone attacks in regards to the cycle of terrorism.

The US drone policy in Pakistan has not only destabilised the already weakened Pakistani government, former CIA officers have recognised it as an accompanying motivation of the current Taliban for further terrorist attacks, facilitated additionally by the prevalent anti-American paradigm. The counterproductive policy has essentially ignored the socio-political impact of the drones and the indirect costs.

The crux of my opinion is that you should not let a counter-terrorism policy that has yet to present an acceptable rationale or any accuracy in its methods, be perpetrated in order to win over our common fear of terrorism.  Would you be just as accepting of such a military operation if it was implemented upon you and your family? Don’t let this conflict get out of your sight and out of your mind. Inform yourself of the details and allow yourself to consider if you support drone attacks or not.

IMAGE: Leslie Pratt