FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Inside America’s Drone Wars

by INDIRA PRADHAN

It was with great anticipation that those in the room at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC on Monday, October 29 awaited the first screening of  director Robert Greenwald’s latest documentary, “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.” The film details the Obama Administration’s deadly drone program and its innocent victims in the tribal areas of Waziristan in Pakistan. For years, the US government has downplayed the number of civilian drone casualties, with innocent victims labeled as nameless “militants” in the media. Drone warfare has intensified in recent years as there has been a scaling back of ground troops in Afghanistan. Unmanned, therefore, arrives at an important juncture in the so-called War on Terror.

The American public is told that the drone strikes are precise and that they avoid or limit the collateral damage of warfare, but the truth is very different, according to the dozens of subjects interviewed for the documentary. Greenwald made a clear effort to include testimonies from not only human rights advocates, but also prominent journalists, national security experts, legal scholars, and even former CIA officials. Their viewpoints are unanimous that the Obama administration continually obfuscates the number of civilians killed by drones, and underestimates the amount of backlash created by such strikes.

The documentary also spotlighted several victims of the drone warfare. One in particular, Tariq Aziz, a sixteen-year-old soccer aficionado, was killed by a ‘Hellfire’ missile 72 hours after he attended a peaceful anti-drone conference in Islamabad, where he’d met numerous international journalists and human rights groups. Rather than arresting Tariq at the conference, the U.S. chose to kill Tariq, a minor, without any explanation except for noting, as usual, that “militants” were killed.

Also featured in the film was Brandon Bryant, an ex- Air Force pilot who narrated how he lives with PTSD after serving as a drone operator from 2007 to 2011. His descriptions of his view as he launched drone missiles is genuinely chilling.

The documentary’s release coincided with the visit by the Rahman family – innocent victims who lost their mother/grandmother to a 2012 strike –  to the United States. Nine-year-old Nabila ur Rahman, her older brother Zubair, and their father Rafiq ur Rahman, were featured prominently in the documentary and attended the screening with their lawyer, Reprieve’s Jennifer Gibson. After the screening, an emotional audience listened to beautiful little Nabila and her well-spoken brother tell the harrowing tale about how their grandmother, Mamana Bibi, was killed while picking okra in their garden  in preparation for Eid-Al-Adha. Nine children including Nabila and Zubair, were hospitalized with injuries from the strike. But their horrible memories live on – the next day, Rafiq, Nabila, and Zubair recounted their testimony for a briefing before members of Congress and asked for an explanation of why innocent Mamana Bibi was targeted.

For the first time, this heartbreaking documentary brings the drone program ‘out of the closet’ through the innocent victims themselves. If there is one criticism to level, it is that although the stories Greenwald choose to showcase are compelling, the audience is told that there are hundreds more, without the names and faces that bring numbers to life. One wonders whether screen time could have been distributed among more testimonies, rather than focusing narrowly on Tariq and Rafiq’s stories.

Regardless, Unmanned is a powerful indictment of the use of drone warfare. It shows that there is nothing brave or heroic about pressing a remote control button from the comfort of a base in the United States to create terror in far away lands – and often kill innocent people. It provokes the question: “How can we now remain silent?” And what answer does one have when 13-year-old Zubair says, as he did in his Congressional testimony, “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.”

Indira Pradhan is a writer, social worker, and Vice President of M-Real, a charity which raises money for schools in in her native India. She is a graduate of the University of London’s prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies, where she studied South Asian history and politics. Indira is also a former speechwriter for South Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Duk Choo Moon in Geneva, Switzerland. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with frequent travel to New York, Washington, DC, and India.

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail