The drone war in Pakistan is ambivalent. It affects so many civilian lives while seeking out terrorists. It’s the war on terror; it’s also the war that creates terror.
The United States government has made hundreds of attacks on targets in Northwest Pakistan since 2004 using unmanned aerial vehicles also known as drones. The use of drones has been applied in Yemen and Somalia since the end of 2004. An estimated 411 to 890 civilians have been killed, including 168 to 197 children according to a News Agency report. Many more were injured, and still more live under the fear of drones. Some decided to stand up and make their voices heard in the international community.
Sadaullah Wazir is a teenager, living in the village of Machi Khel in Mir Ali, North Waziristan in North East Pakistan. Like every other teenager in this world, Wazir had many expectations in his future. He wanted to be a doctor. In 2009 his life changed completely one day, while eating with his family at the grandfather’s home. After prayer they had started to eat. Nobody in the house had any idea what would happen to them only minutes later. They didn’t hear a thing. Suddenly, the missiles were there. He didn't remember anything afterwards. When he woke up from a coma, he could only see with one of his eyes. After years of recovery, he still cannot go anywhere too far from his home - his prosthetic legs hurt if he walks a lot and he gets strong headaches from time to time.
Mamana Bibi was attacked when she was picking okra for dinner in her family’s field in Ghundi Kala, northwest Pakistan. She was an ordinary 68-year-old grandmother in that small agricultural village. Her granddaughter Nabila, 8, and twelve-year-old grandson Zubair were helping her nearby. After one loud explosion, the grandma was blown into so many pieces that her grandchildren could barely recognize her body. A few moments later, another strike hit one of her grandchildren, leaving the child unconscious.
In May 2013 Obama claimed in a speech that “we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces” and that “we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people.” He also promised that “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.” Months after his invigorating speech, another drone strike turned a wedding in Yemen into a funeral, leaving 14 people dead, and 22 people injured.
Sadaullah Wazir doesn’t understand why his grandfather was an “imminent threat to the American people”; nor do Mamana Bibi’s grandchildren understand how their grandmother became a terrorist to the CIA, and why this 68 year-old woman was so dangerous that America had to use drones to blow her into pieces; it is also difficult for the people who attended the wedding in Yemen to figure out why a happy wedding had to be turned into a funeral by the powerful drones.
Sadaullah Wazir and Mamana Bibi’s grandchildren were just some of many victims of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia; they were also some of the lucky ones who survived the drone strike. On the contrary, Sadaullah Wazir’s grandfather, Mamana Bibi herself, and the 14 Yemeni at the wedding had their bodies torn into pieces. Total civilian casualties are estimated at between 411 and 890, including 168 to 197 children; total reported injured are between 1,177 and 1,480.
The 411 to 890 civilian casualties are not just empty and abstract numbers that only show up in the report, nor any anonymous and affectless numbers only worth a glance at in the media as collateral damages. They are vivid bright lives that were taken or hurt by drones; they are the people who were severely affected by the violence started by the side that promised them a life free of terror. They have dreams and feelings just like everyone else on this planet; they love their families and value their friends just like any other in this world. Being born to an area in conflict, or showing up at the wrong time or wrong place doesn't eliminate the fact that they’re also humans like we all. Justice should be for all, and they deserve the basic right to live.
Violence never gives real solution to the deep problems. Drones, initiated and controlled by some CIA agents miles away, shed the shadow on tens of thousands of individuals’ lives with the mighty power, leaving people living in fear; they tear families apart, and turn the tribal community into vengeful killers. There is no denying how beautiful and invaluable life for every individual is. The problem of the drone policy lies in the fact that it’s never possible to find a balance between vivid lives of the people who live there and ties to terrorists. It’s simply not possible to measure something real and absolute with something abstract and uncertain. Life is life, worthy of dignity and respect, without compromise. In lack of basic respect of the ordinary people there, Washington will never fully know the impact of their actions, and the War on Terror will never accomplish its full victory with only arrogance.
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Sofie Chen is a student in liberal arts. Her interests cover human rights and new media in social transformation. After time in China and USA she now lives in Germany.
Written by Sofie Chen and published on 01-March-2014