FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Drone War Over Pakistan

The cloak of secrecy and mendacity that covers the shadow war the United States is waging in Pakistan undermines democratic values both in the battle against the Taliban and back home. Our strategy relies on backroom deals, on proxy warriors and private mercenaries, on the complicity of a corrupt Pakistani government, on mechanized drone attacks, and on public deceit. And that’s why, when Judith McHale, the Obama Administration’s new under secretary of state for diplomacy and public affairs, arrived in Pakistan, she was told by the prominent Pakistani journalist Ansar Abbasi, “You should know that we all hate Americans. From the bottom of our souls, we hate you.”

The full extent of America’s game in Pakistan is impossible to know; it seems to have utter control over the Pakistani government under Asif Ali Zardari. Whether he was actually bought or simply believes that his only chance of staying in power is to slavishly obey American desires must remain a subject for speculation. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when Zardari met with President Obama on May 6 and 7, about twelve hours before the offensive in Swat materialized out of nothingness, or rather materialized out of a terrified army and peace treaty with the Taliban ceding the territory. That offensive created an internal refugee crisis and humanitarian disaster. Pakistanis feel that American interests are at odds with their own: America wants to annihilate the Taliban, but Pakistan needs peace and stability so that moderate and liberal elements can be fostered on a grassroots level. Clearly, Zardari has been convinced of the American point of view. But as that big picture remains stubbornly opaque to the civilian viewer, I want to turn to another battle being waged in Pakistani territory, along the Afghanistan border. Although that battle is part of the war in Afghanistan, its impact on Pakistan is overlooked and very important.

The war in the tribal areas, in the Northwest Provinces and Waziristan is primarily fought with unmanned drones, which routinely fire Hellfire missiles into homes, schools, and caves. The most recent of these attacks occurred on Tuesday, (September 8), killing ten, following one on Monday (September 7), killing six, etc. They’ve been going on for over two years, they are barely reported upon in the American media, and they have become an uncontrollable fact of life in the region. It is impossible to know how many of the casualties of these attacks are Taliban fighters; there have been high-profile targets (most notably Baitullah Meshud, a Taliban leader killed on August 5), but there have certainly innocent deaths. Providing hospitality to strangers who may or may not be Taliban fighters amounts to a death sentence under the reign of the drones—and the culture of the region prizes hospitality as a sacred duty.

The drone attacks are massively unpopular in Pakistan, and understandably so. Try, for a moment, to imagine life under the drones; they are constantly overhead, gathering intelligence, watching, and you never know when they’ll decide to strike. They’re literally inhuman, faceless, soulless—it’s straight out of science fiction—and this in a tribal, rural area where people might travel days to see a TV or a telephone. That the attacks continue uninterrupted into the holy month of Ramazan adds insult to injury.

The prevailing discourse within Pakistan is that the drones violate Pakistani sovereignty, and it’s a line that the Zardari government periodically trots out in public. The Obama administration leads us to believe that Zardari, like his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf, allows the US to operate its drones with impunity, and that the public stance is purely for the sake of public opinion. But Pakistanis aren’t as stupid as we seem to assume they are; they know that their government cannot and will not move to stop the drones. Indeed, until recently, the Pakistanis were using intelligence gathered by drones. It reveals to the world the dishonesty of the Zardari government and makes it appear (rightly) cowed and enslaved to America, further weakening support not only for this incarnation of the American puppet government in Pakistan, but also the ideal of democracy in the country. The Taliban don’t need a propaganda machine, they only need to point to the sky where the drones fly, having taken off from a base within Pakistan.

But the obfuscation isn’t limited to the Pakistani government. Both the American government and the Pakistani government refuse to publicly comment upon or confirm any of the drone attacks, as if there is some reason why the drone attacks should be beyond public debate, as if by keeping the operation classified they escape responsibility for it. Perhaps they do—through subcontracting it to private mercenaries. The New York Times recently reported that the drone operations are carried out by Blackwater, the same thugs we last saw killing and torturing Iraqis. There may be nothing technically illegal about this, but I find it deeply unsettling that our murder machines should be operated so far away from democratic institutions or public debate.

JED BICKMAN can be reached at: jed.bickman@gmail.com

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
August 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Lights! Camera! Kill! Hollywood, the Pentagon and Imperial Ambitions.
Joseph Grosso
Bloody Chicken: Inside the American Poultry Industry During the Time of COVID
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: It Had to be You
H. Bruce Franklin
August 12-22, 1945: Washington Starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Pete Dolack
Business as Usual Equals Many Extra Deaths from Global Warming
Paul Street
Whispers in the Asylum (Seven Days in August)
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Predatory Capitalism and the Nuclear Threat in the Age of Trump
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?
Ron Jacobs
It’s a Sick Country
Eve Ottenberg
Trump’s Plan: Gut Social Security, Bankrupt the States
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Fake News
Jonathan Cook
How the Guardian Betrayed Not Only Corbyn But the Last Vestiges of British Democracy
Joseph Natoli
What Trump and the Republican Party Teach Us
Robert Fisk
Can Lebanon be Saved?
Brian Cloughley
Will Biden be Less Belligerent Than Trump?
Kenn Orphan
We Do Not Live in the World of Before
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Compromise & the Status Quo
Andrew Bacevich
Biden Wins, Then What?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Criminology of Global Warming
Michael Welton
Toppled Monuments and the Struggle For Symbolic Space
Prabir Purkayastha
Why 5G is the First Stage of a Tech War Between the U.S. and China
Daniel Beaumont
The Reign of Error
Adrian Treves – John Laundré
Science Does Not Support the Claims About Grizzly Hunting, Lethal Removal
David Rosen
A Moment of Social Crisis: Recalling the 1970s
Maximilian Werner
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: Textual Manipulations in Anti-wolf Rhetoric
Pritha Chandra
Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time
Robert Koehler
Learning from the Hibakushas
Seth Sandronsky
Teaching in a Pandemic: an Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider
Dean Baker
Financing Drug Development: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us
Greta Anderson
Blaming Mexican Wolves for Livestock Kills
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Meaning of the Battle of Salamis
Mel Gurtov
The World Bank’s Poverty Illusion
Paul Gilk
The Great Question
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
Trump Doesn’t Want Law and Order
Martin Cherniack
Neo-conservatism: The Seductive Lure of Lying About History
Nicky Reid
Pick a Cold War, Any Cold War!
George Wuerthner
Zombie Legislation: the Latest Misguided Wildfire Bill
Lee Camp
The Execution of Elephants and Americans
Christopher Brauchli
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…
Tony McKenna
The Truth About Prince Philip
Louis Proyect
MarxMail 2.0
Sidney Miralao
Get Military Recruiters Out of Our High Schools
Jon Hochschartner
Okra of Time
David Yearsley
Bringing Landscapes to Life: the Music of Johann Christian Bach
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail