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Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom

“President Barack Obama has defended the use of drones in a ‘just war’ of self-defence against deadly militants and a campaign that had made America safer. In a wide-ranging speech on a programme shrouded in secrecy he said there must be ‘near certainty’ that no civilians would die in such strikes.”

— BBC News May 23, 2013.

The prospect of Hillary Clinton being President of the United States of America is one to fill our minds with dread concerning the likely posture of Washington in foreign affairs should she ever attain the Oval Office. There is no doubt she would continue or even increase the intensity of Washington’s military confrontations with China and Russia — and enjoy smacking the wrists of smaller countries whose actions might displease her.  Indeed her castigation might go further, even to the extent of rejoicing in the murder of national leaders such as President Gaddafi of Libya, about whom she laughed “We came. We saw. He died.”

Who might be next, with Hillary at the helm?

Under her reign the US military presence around the world would be maintained or expanded — but no matter who is in the White House, the hundreds of military bases surrounding China and Russia will continue operations and the US nuclear-armed fleets that roam the seas and oceans will maintain their aggressive posture.

Drone assassinations will also continue and more innocent people like that poor taxi driver in Pakistan will be killed by US Hellfire missiles guided by gleeful techno-cretins who move control sticks and prod buttons while playing barbaric video games from their comfortable killing couches in drone-control bases.

That taxi driver?

To remind you: on May 21 a taxi driver called Mohammad Azam was earning his tiny daily wage by picking up passengers who crossed the Iranian border into Pakistan.  Sometimes he would take them only to nearby villages, but that day he picked up a client who wanted to go to the city of Quetta, eight hours drive away.  He drove off in his Toyota Corolla, and a few hours later, when he stopped for a rest, Obama’s Hellfires struck and blasted the car to twisted shards of metal — and reduced Azam and his customer to smoking corpses.

Another case of  “We came. We saw. He died.”

Azam’s passenger was the evil Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, travelling under a false name.  His sought-for anonymity didn’t do him much good, because he had been traced and tracked, and while he was in Iran or when he was going through border crossing examination on the Pakistan side it’s likely that a US-paid agent planted a chip on him or in his baggage that signaled his whereabouts to the drone-controlling video-gamers.

Azam the taxi-driver didn’t know Mullah Mansour and was not associated with the Taliban or any such organization. He was an entirely innocent man trying to earn enough money to feed his family — his wife, four small children and a crippled brother who stayed with them.

But Azam was killed by the same US Hellfire missiles that killed Mullah Mansoor.

The Pentagon stated that  “Mansur has been an obstacle to peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, prohibiting Taliban leaders from participating in peace talks with the Afghan government that could lead to an end to the conflict.”  So they killed him.  And without the slightest hesitation they also killed the taxi driver Mohammad Azam.

If a person in a foreign country that can’t retaliate to drone strikes is considered an enemy of the United States there is no question of arrest, charge and trial.  When it can be done they are killed by drone missile strikes, personally authorized by President Obama who stressed that there must be “near certainty that non-combatants will not be injured or killed,”  and that “the United States respects national sovereignty and international law.”

But the US president ordered the assassination of two people in a country whose prime minister said that the US drone attack was a gross violation of national sovereignty.  And although the White House and the Pentagon might — just might — be able to convince a War Crimes Tribunal that their killing of Mullah Mansur was in some fashion reasonable, how could they possibly claim that their murder of the taxi driver Azam was justified?  When did it become “respectful of international law” to deliberately slaughter a taxi driver?

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, declared that Mansoor’s obliteration “sends a clear message to the world that we will continue to stand with our Afghan partners as they work to build a more stable, united, secure and prosperous Afghanistan.”   Which was no doubt solace to Azam’s widow and her two little boys and two little girls when his hideously charred fragmented corpse arrived next day.

People like Obama and Kerry and Clinton and countless millions of others simply don’t care about the smashing, flashing, hideously agonizing death of the innocent taxi driver Azam.

The US President’s professional video-gamers had killed yet another totally innocent non-combatant, but no doubt they all slept soundly on the night that Azam’s children began to realize their terrible loss.

Three weeks after the drone murder of taxi driver Azam there was a massacre of 49 people in the US city of Orlando.  It was horrible.  Much of the world was aghast, and there was emotion displayed in Europe and North America, with candle-lit vigils, solemn silences of respect in parliaments and other demonstrations of sympathy and solidarity.  And when a British female Member of Parliament was killed by a lunatic on June 16 there was an amazing outpouring of grief in the country. Her husband said after her murder that “the two things that I’ve been very focused on is how do we support and protect the children.”

Quite right.   And understandable and most admirable.

But who is going to support and protect the children of the US drone-killed taxi driver Azam?

The slaughter of innocent human beings is an everyday occurrence in Iraq and Libya and Afghanistan, where countless thousands have died — without a single western candle being lit in sorrowful commemoration of any Iraqis, Libyans or Afghans who have died in the savage chaos caused by the catastrophic military fandangos in their countries by US-led western powers.

Western countries are highly selective in displaying disapproval and grief following killings, be they mass or individual, and it could hardly be expected that the US assassination of a Pakistani taxi driver would attract the slightest sympathy or censure.

The murder-by drone of taxi driver Azam by the Pentagon’s video-gamers could be summed up by Hillary Clinton’s happy rejoicing about the murder of President Gaddafi during the US-NATO blitz on Libya, when she laughingly declared that “We came.  We saw.  He died.”

And thinking about the future . . .    Would you be surprised if in twenty years or so one of the children of taxi driver Azam were to take up a gun and kill Americans?

A version of this piece appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on June 19.

More articles by:

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.

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