Should the drones be stopped?


Photo by: Fibonacci Blue

Photo by: Fibonacci Blue

The U.S. has long persisted with its narrative of the usefulness of drones and their controversial stance of purging terrorism by using unmanned drones operated from an obscure base somewhere in the U.S., thousands of miles away from the targets. It claims to target terrorist hideouts, which the U.S. see as a an external threat to its sovereignty and national security.

But the United Sates has drawn severe criticism from anti-war lobbies and NGOs such as Code Pink, which have been vocal in their campaign against extra-judicial killings that they say violate international law and are a recipe for global disaster.

Many have argued that the drones, instead of eliminating terrorism, are working as a multiplying factor, allowing extremists to recruit more people to fight against the West. They view the War of Terror as actually a war on Islam.

“Drones are not working as a deterrent. The U.S. needs to understand one thing: the death of innocent people, which they so casually dismiss as collateral damage, is pushing people towards the terrorists. The West needs to reassess their strategy. It’s backfiring,” said Qasim Badr, a political science student.

There are some who are adamant in their demands that the drone attacks end, as they cause more civilian than terrorist deaths.

“The U.S. and Pakistani government have consistently lied about the number of deaths caused by these illegal drone strikes,” said Akib Khan, a criminology student at Douglas College. “They have no shame, no remorse and no guilt in allowing the deaths of innocent people. Had it not been for non-governmental organizations, we would never have learned of the true nature of these drones.”

“On the one hand, the West prides itself in being the torchbearers of human rights and on the other hand we see a blatant violation of human rights through extra-judicial killings,” said Mark Robinson, a business student. “No one gives U.S. the right to kill innocent civilians and call them collateral damage, when clearly these so-called precision strikes kill only one or two terrorists while the rest seriously injured or dead are civilians.”

He added that the Jirga they attacked in North Waziristan a couple years ago was not a congregation of terrorists. “Terrorists do not conduct a public gathering to discuss their tactics in the open, in the broad daylight,” Robinson said. The attack ended up killing the village elders who had met to settle a dispute. “This just proves that they are not there to kill terrorists, they are only using that as an excuse to cause unstability in the region,” Robinson said.

According to independent reports published by Reprieve and Amnesty International, in the drones strikes carried out from 2004 to 2001, only 13 high value targets were killed while the other 1,500-plus casualties were civilians.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) the ruling party in KPK province, the area most affected by drones and suicide bombings, initiated an all parties conference where all political parties unanimously agreed on peace negotiations with the Taliban, but the recent drone strike that killed Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud seems to have scuttled the process.

“The U.S. deliberately sabotaged the dialogue process. People of FATA and KPK have been devastated because of these attacks. The issue is not Taliban here, it’s peace in Pakistan. If the U.S. wants to protect their own interests, they need to understand that we will our’s, but not at the expense of civilian deaths,” said Imran Khan, Chairman of PTI.

A report drafted by Amnesty International on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan,  appropriately titled “Will I Be Next?”, was released Tuesday, Oct. 22. It provided a “qualitative assessment based on detailed field research into nine of the 45 reported strikes in North Waziristan between January 2012 and August 2013.”

The report outlines the devastation and arbitrary human loss caused by the drones, supported by its case studies, survey and fact-finding.

“The United States has carried out unlawful killing in Pakistan through drone attacks, some of which could even amount to war crimes,” stated the report.

The focus of the report remains on the unsanctioned, unlawful and, on most occasions,  unexplained killing of civilians. “Clearly, the drones are missing ‘targets’ and there is no proof or identification of whether the people who are hit are genuine militant targets or not,” the report stated.

“We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the U.S. and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances. But it is hard to believe that a group of labourers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all,” said Mustafa Qadri, an Amnesty International Pakistan researcher.

The report detailed the case of Mamana Bibi, 68, who was tending her crops in Ghundi Kala village on Oct. 24, 2012, when two Hellfire missiles fired from a drone killed her. When her grandson rushed to check on her, was hit by shrapnel. He survived, but received serious injuries.

Similarly, a group of labourers from Zowi Sidgi village had gathered at a tent after a long days’ work when a drone hit their resting place on July 6, killing eight of them. When some villagers came to search for survivors, a second attack was launched, killing more civilians.

The official claims were that those killed were terrorists, which is the criterion for American targeting, but the Amnesty International identified all those killed and injured in the Zowi Sidgi attack as non-combatants between the ages of 18-35.


Politics aficionado with a keen eye on current affairs.

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