DRONE STRIKES: HELLFIRE TO AMERICAN IDEALS
By M Khan Chishti
The attacks of 9/11 caused immense fury in America. The wars of vengeance in Afghanistan and Iraq put deadly arsenal of American armed forces on full display. The country, which was loved for blue jean and popular culture, is now being hated for carpet bombing and human rights violation at Abu-gharib and Guantanamo jails. These wars not only victimized innocent people around the global but also badly damaged the American ideals such as freedom, justice, equality, human dignity, and opportunity. The excessive use of drones became the major cause of transforming American dream into a nightmare.
Today, the US government is facing severe criticism for it’s illegal and unethical drone campaign all over the world. It is floating cock and bull stories in the media to brush off such studies which blame US government for thousands of extra judicial killings due to CIA operated drones. Recently, New York Times claimed in a report that drones operated in Pakistan under a 2004 secret deal between US and Pakistan government. The report’s claim was dismissed by Pakistan Foreign Office terming it baseless and part of propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan over this issue.
Pakistan became part of American alliance in the Global War against terrorism as a responsible member of sovereign state system under United Nations. But it was not equipped with modern technology which was required to tackle untraditional threats such as Al-Qaeda. Therefore, it was very much dependent on American technological assistance to deal with the situation which emerged after the fall of Taliban regime in Kabul. But the behavior of ISAF/NATO troops was not collaborative rather it was threatening. The threats of hot pursuits by top officials of Pentagon are on record. In this situation, CIA was least interested in winning Pakistan’s consent for it’s offensive on the Pak-Afghan border. In fact, the ambitious CIA operatives had become unscrupulous in the hunt for high value targets of Al-Qaeda and took every chance to hit them without assessing collateral damages and considering norms of international laws. The attack of ISAF/Nato forces on the Salala check post was recent manifestation of such hawkish posture of USA. CIA’s utilization of drones as regular weapon has always stood counter productive. Thousands of innocent children and women became victims to this lethal weapon. This outcome invoked more hatred and vengeance against America due to which terrorist organizations gathered more recruits. Even in the settled areas of the country, people developed anti American sentiments over the violation of national sovereignty by unwanted drone strikes.
The government of America also neglected legal opinion while conducting these attacks. The United Nations challenged the legality of US drone killings in a May 2010 report by Philip Alston, who said that the drone killings might be lawful in the context of authorized armed conflict e.g, in Afghanistan, however, its use “far from the battle zone” was highly questionable. This was surely referred to drone attacks in Pakistan. An American writer Conor Murphy also criticized US President Barack Obama’s increasingly hawkish foreign policy, asserting that the US leader lacked constitutional or international authority to pursue drone attacks against Pakistan. Similarly, Richard Flak, professor of international affairs and politics at Princeton University believed that the widespread killing of civilians in drone strikes established the act as “war crimes”. The criticism does not end here. An international law expert Professor Mary Ellen O, Connell seriously questioned the legality of drone attacks in Pakistan in a powerful testimony before the US Congress.
Most recently, Ben Emmerson the UN special rapporteur, toured Pakistan from 11-13 March to gather first-hand information on drone strikes and their impact on civilians. He expressed that the drone campaign involved use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and therefore its a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. Sources said the UN rapporteur was informed in clear terms that there was no secret understanding between Pakistan and the US on drone attacks. Emmerson also met with tribal leaders and victims of drone strikes in Islamabad, who informed him that innocent tribesmen were often targeted by drones because they were indistinguishable from Taliban militants. According to Emmerson, “It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states.
These statements evidently signify that US nationals and western experts themselves opposed use of drones inside Pakistan’s territory. However, false reporting by CIA mouthpieces like New York Times certainly attempt to neutralize criticism against US drone policy in Pakistan. Government of Pakistan has long presented its clear stance on the drone strikes before US and international community by terming those as illegal, violation of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty and counter-productive. However, Pakistan’s protest has yet not been given due consideration. Increase in drone attacks in Pakistan while US plan to wind up its war in Afghanistan is damaging for US own interests in the region.