FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Tough Minds and Tender Hearts

by KATHY KELLY

I spent Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday in Washington, D.C. as part of the Witness Against Torture fast, which campaigns to end all forms of torture and has worked steadily for an end to indefinite detention of people imprisoned in Guantanamo, Bagram, and other secret sites where the U.S. has held and tortured prisoners. We’re on day 9 of a twelve day fast to shut down Guantanmo, end torture, and build justice.

The community gathered for the fast has grown over the past week. This means, however, that as more people sleep on the floor of St. Stephen’s church, there is a rising cacophony of snoring. Our good friend, Fr. Bill Pickard, suggested trying to hear the snores as an orchestra, when I told him I’d slept fitfully last night.

There is a young boy in Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan, in Pakistan, who also lies awake at night, unable to sleep. Israr Khan Dawar is 17 years old. He told an AP reporter, on January 14th, that he and his family and friends had gotten used to the drones. But now, at night, the sound grows louder and the drones are flying closer, so he and his family realize they could be a target. He braces himself in fear of an attack.

We’re told that we will be more secure if the CIA continually attack the so-called lawless tribal areas and eliminates “the bad guys.”

In late May and early June of 2009, while visiting in Pakistan, a man from the village of Khaisor, also in North Waziristan, told us about his experience as a survivor of a drone attack. Jane Mayer, writing in The New Yorker, mentioned that the people operating the drones and analyzing the surveillance intelligence have a word for people like him who managed to survive a blast and run away. They are called “squirters.” So, I suppose he would have been considered a squirter.

This man, at some risk to himself, walked a long distance and took two buses to meet with us. Because of travel restrictions, we would not have been allowed to visit him in North Waziristan. His village is so remote that there are no roads leading up to it. Five hundred people live there. Often, western media refers to his homeland as “the lawless tribal area.” One day, three strangers entered Khaisor and went to the home of vigil elders. For centuries, villagers have followed a code of hospitality, which demands that when strangers come to your door, you feed them and give them drink. It’s not as though you can point them toward a Motel 6 or a 7-11. The strangers were welcomed into the home they approached and they left after having been served a meal. They were long gone when, at 4:30 a.m. a U.S. drone, operated by the C.I.A., fired 2 Hellfire missiles into the home they had visited, killing 12 people, two of whom were village elders. Children were dismembered and maimed.

“What do people do?” I asked, “if you’ve no Emergency Medical Teams, if you’ve no roads?” I was wearing a “tbutta” the long scarf that Pakistani women traditionally wear. “You see your scarf,” my friend said. “We wrap it around the wounded person, as tightly as we can, to stop the bleeding.” I could imagine the white scarf I wore becoming blood-soaked, in seconds.

The CIA uses sophisticated technology, extensive education and a great deal of money to collect intelligence. The drone surveillance produces picture images so vivid that when the CIA targeted a Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, they knew that he was on the rooftop of his in-laws’ home. His wife’s parents, both doctors, were tending him, and had inserted an IV into his arm, giving him fluids. The drone attack killed all of them, and Mehsud’s wife.

The CIA made fifteen attempts to kill Baitullah Mehsud. In the fourteen previous attempts, people were killed who may not have been members of a Taliban group. Some may have been family members of the murdered victim. Baitullah Mehsud’s successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was known to be more violent and unpredictable and also media savvy. According to speculation, the Jordananian suicide bomber who killed nine CIA agents, Dr. Al-Balawi, had gained credibility with those same agents by providing information about drone targets. But, the information he supplied named political rivals of Hakimullah Mehsud, or people suspected of disloyalty or people considered to be expendable.

This past weekend, celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth, we’ve been guided by his words. One mantra for us, from Dr. King, urges us to develop tough minds and tender hearts. With tough minds, we must ask why we are being told that the drone attacks are successful.

With tender hearts, let us mourn for the families, friends and community members of the nine CIA agents who were killed in the suicide bomber attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan. Their arms will ache, longingly, for loved ones who will never return. In the spirit that says everyone in, nobody out, let us realize their humanity.

The CIA asks “who are the bad guys” so that they can eliminate them.

We are fortunate to be guided by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who asked the same question, but Dr. King actually, earnestly wanted to understand the humanity of his adversaries. At the time, he was speaking of the Viet Cong. He urged his listeners to try and understand how they are seen by their adversaries.

We need tough minds and tender hearts to build a world wherein the United States will not be seen as a menacing, fearful force. Let’s work toward a world wherein 17-year-old youngsters won’t lie awake at night, listening to low-flying drones and readying themselves to die.

KATHY KELLY is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the author of Other Lands Have Dreams (published by CounterPunch/AK Press). Her email is kathy@vcnv.org

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail