Living under Drones

If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of the drone. If I’m shopping, I’m really careful and scared. If I’m standing on the road and there is a car parked next to me, I never know if that is going to be the target. Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me. Even in mosques, if we’re praying, we’re worried that maybe one person who is standing with us praying is wanted. So, wherever we are, we have this fear of drones.

From Living under Drones, an account of the impact US drone strikes are having on civilian life in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Area. Read it. All of it.

One of the things that struck me most is the severe impact on civic life and education. The report describes three attacks in particular; the first, on March 17, 2011, was a strike on a jirga, a meeting of elders and community members to resolve disputes and make decisions regarding community affairs. This meeting was to settle a dispute regarding a nearby mine. The community was doing what it does — gathering together to settle the matter peacefully and avoid greater unrest and difficulties in the area — and the US bombed them, killing 42 and wounding 14 more. Among the dead were all the elders gathered for the meeting.

Theoretically, the US is wanting to promote peace and democracy in Pakistan (and Afghanistan). How does bombing peaceful civic meetings and judicial processes do anything but directly undermine such goals?

On education, the drone strikes are having a variety of impacts. Killing primary income earners means that children need to be pulled out of school to work and feed their families. Injuring civilians (both physically and mentally) forces them out of school. The continual fear of being attacked makes people afraid to go anywhere, even to school. If we are wanting to promote education — if we are appalled when the Taliban throws battery acid on girls’ faces when they wan to go to school — why are we keeping kids from schools with our flying robots?

Ongoing, undeclared war with insufficiently discriminate targeting is seriously undermining the credibility of American humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. It needs to stop.