|Posted on March 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM||comments (3973)|
The perfume of the narcissusScents the dancing windsThe excited trills of exuberant swallowsThe intimacy of love drunken turtle dovesSlowly, softly spring arrivesOh I envy these days asThe earth and the universe revives.
Norooz the Persian New Year is arriving. Usually a time of hope and promise for all; however, Iranians are once more welcoming spring filled with fear of war.
The United States Senate that took us to the Iraq war ten years ago, is leading us toward another road of misery in the Middle East, this time to Iran. The Senate is moving forward with a resolution calling for the United States to "stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel" if that government decides to strike Iran. The resolution, S.Res.65, is a way to take the U.S. to a full scale war with Iran based on when Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu decides to pull the trigger.
Please join the Fellowship of Reconciliation and other national anti-war groups and say NO to war with Iran .
Please take action and let your senator know you oppose S.Res.65. ( Check to see if your senator cosponsored this resolution.)
You Can Take Action by:
1. Signing the RootsAction petition
2. Calling numbers provided by FCNL call alert against S. Res. 65: 1-855-68-NO WAR (1-855-686-6927)
3. Writing a letter to editor
4. Writing to your Senator.
Dear Honorable Senator …….
I am writing to express my strong opposition to S.Res.65 that would call for the U.S. to support Israeli military strikes against Iran with the promise of American troops, money, and political support should Israel take such action. This Resolution will make war with Iran more likely. As the New York Times editorial board haswritten, this measure "could harm negotiations" and "make diplomatic efforts even harder."
I strongly urge you to withhold cosponsorship and instead stand up for a negotiated settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue and for serious diplomacy that includes critical issues like human rights.
Thank you for your efforts to prevent death and destruction in another disastrous war.
*Fereydoon Moshiri, Persian poet, 1926-2000 Tehran,translated by Dr. Mark Johnson
|Posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:00 PM||comments (8000)|
The Israeli Air Force on Wednesday launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza City, killing Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’s armed wing — the equivalent of an army’s chief of staff — and his son, Mohammed al-Homs. Palestinian sources put the death toll at up to nine by evening.
Following the airstrikes, Palestinians launched dozens of rockets at Israel, most of them targeting Beersheba and its environs. Rockets were also fired at Ashkelon, Ashdod and other cities within range of the Palestinian enclave. Two people were lightly injured in the attacks and several more treated for shock.
As of early Thursday morning, approximately 90 missiles had been fired at Israel since the strike on Jabari. Over 25 of the rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome defense system.
Residents within range of rocket fire from Gaza were requested to remain within 15 seconds of a shelter. School was called off for Thursday throughout the south, including in Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The police raised alert levels amid fears of terror attacks.
The army confirmed the airstrike on Jabari and said that it had launched a “widespread campaign on terror sites and operatives in the Gaza Strip, chief among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets.” The IDF Spokesperson’s Office told The Times of Israel that the campaign was being referred to as “Operation Pillar of Defense.”
“By nature of his position, Jabari has been responsible over the past decade for all anti-Israel terror activity emanating from the [Gaza] Strip,” the Shin Bet security agency said in a statement. Israeli military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under army regulations, said Jabari was identified by “precise intelligence” gathered over several months.
Hamas’s armed wing warned that in assassinating Jabari, Israel “had opened the gates of hell on itself.”
|Posted on November 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM||comments (18)|
As an interfaith organization committed to nonviolence, The Fellowship of Reconciliation opposes all armed conflict and especially attacks on civilians.We mourn the deaths of civilians in Gaza and Israel, and pray for their families and those who have been injured in attacks." We believe that an immediate cessation of hostilities can best be achieved through a negotiated ceasefire that evolves into a sustained commitment to peaceful co-existence. We oppose policies of occupation, torture, targeted assassination, drone warfare, firing of rockets on civilians and ground invasions.
F.O.R. recognizes the enormous political, economic and military power imbalance between the Israeli State and representatives of the Palestinians. We believe that Israel's policy of complete closure of Gaza has created the largest open air prison in the world. The people of Gaza are suffering. Operation Pillar of Defense imposes further tragedy and death upon a people already living under traumatic and life threatening circumstances.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation urges our chapters and affiliates to intensify efforts to end the United State's unconditional military support of Israel and support active noncooperation with corporations and institutions that profit and benefit from occupation, militarism and war. Take action today. As one citizen of Israel pleaded, turn Operation Pillar of Defense into Operation for a Hopeful Future.
|Posted on October 22, 2012 at 3:40 PM||comments (19)|
|Posted on October 17, 2012 at 3:35 PM||comments (222)|
http://www.commondreams.org/headline September/ 28/2012
Pakistan's foreign minister said last night that the top cause of anti-Americanism in her country is the U.S. use of drone attacks.
Agence France Presse reports Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar'd comments in a speech in New York to the Asia Society :
"The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal. It is illegal and it is unlawful."
Asked during her address why polls find that anti-American sentiment in Pakistan is among the world’s highest, Khar answered with one word: “Drones.”
“As the drones fly over the territory of Pakistan, it becomes an American war and the whole logic of this being our fight, in our own interest, is immediately put aside and again it is a war imposed on us,” she said.
Ignoring Pakistani opposition to the drones, she said, is “about choosing to win the battle at the cost of the war. These are battles. You get one terrorist, two terrorists, fine. But are you winning the war?”
A report this week by a group of law professors at Stanford and New York University concluded that US drones have killed thousands of people in the years since 9/11, including hundreds of civilians.
Also, the Guardian is reporting that Pakistan has rejected claims that it deliberately clears military aircraft from the skies of its border region to allow US drones to operate freely.
"There can be no question of Pakistan's agreement to such attacks," the foreign ministry said in response to a report in the Wall Street Journal which claimed the US believed it regularly received consent.
According to the newspaper, the CIA sends a fax "about once a month" to the ISI, its counterpart in Pakistan, outlining the areas and targets where the unmanned aircraft will operate.
[...] A government spokesman rejected the insinuation made in the report and reiterated Pakistan's position on drone attacks: "Drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty."
* * *
|Posted on October 13, 2012 at 4:00 PM||comments (229)|
Why I am going to Pakistan next week
I am very thrilled with the opportunity to go to Pakistan as a member of the CodePink Peace Delegation representing Fellowship of Reconciliation. We will be going to Islamabad, where we will have the opportunity to meet with survivors of drone strikes and drone strike victims, and we will caravan to South Waziristan where we will rally with the people against the wars that have come to their region through US agency over the last few decades. It is long past time to make peace, to allow local nations their sovereign right to define their own laws and live in peace on their land.
For the past few years I have been deeply invested in protesting the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles that are used for for surveillance and attacks. Drones are particularly convenient vehicles for what are called targeted assassinations that occur all too often in civilian areas in countries we are not at war with. It is bad enough that our country is involved in wars of choice, choosing war as a method of solving problems rather than diplomacy and discussion of differences. But today we are targeting and killing people and not even bothering to call this action 'war'.
The New America Foundation, a powerful Washington think tank will tell you that, the number of strikes in 2012 has been far less than previous years. They say that no civilians have been killed in North Waziristan in 2012. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Foundation for Fundamental Rights, our host in Islamabad tells a very different story. They have multiple forms of proof that many civilians are killed in these attacks, and many children. Over 3000 people have been killed in drone strikes in NW Pakistan in the last few years, including nearly 1000 verified civilians with names and biographies and close to 200 children.
There is a lot of unrest in the region right now, and they say it's all about a pornographic movie. However, there have been 2 periods in 2012 wherein there were continuous strikes for a period of a couple of weeks in a small area, maybe as big as the state of Rhode Island. In each case, more than 100 people were killed. The most recent flurry of drone bombings ended a couple of weeks ago. This is an intolerable situation, and a nightmare for those who live with it every day of their lives. A high percentage of the attacks have occurred in an area not much larger than a single county in the region where I live in upstate New York.
Residents of Waziristan in the Northwest part of Pakistan along the Afghan border, are being terrorized by drone attacks on their homes, schools and businesses. The drones fly over their towns and villages 24 hours a day, for days on end, invisible except for a distinctive buzzing noise. Since the US is not at war with Pakistan, the strikes that terrorize these people are not publicly acknowledged, though they are often talked about. The victims are not compensated, like those in Afghanistan. There are no apologies when there is an 'oops'. In fact, we are told that these strikes never or rarely have an 'oops'.
I hope that our delegation will be a small step towards a new understanding, and a joint effort to end this outrageous, intolerable and indefensible behavior on the part of our government.
|Posted on October 10, 2012 at 8:50 PM||comments (74)|
Interviews with the civilians terrorized daily by American foreign policy The Gardian, Sep/25/2012
Do you remember how it felt in America on 9/11?
The humanitarian worker does. He was in New York City. "I remember people crying in the streets," he says. "People were afraid about what might happen next. People didn't know if there would be another attack. There was tension in the air. This is what it is like." He's describing life today where regular U.S. drone strikes happen. "It is a continuous tension, a feeling of continuous uneasiness. We are scared," he laments. "You wake up with a start to every noise."
As a Western aid worker, he is far safer than most, and still he is frightened. It is much worse for the innocent Pakistani men, women and children in tribal areas. They are trapped. Terrified. Powerless.
Remember how you felt on 9/11? Every day, U.S. foreign policy makes innocent people feel even worse.
The scarce attention given to the Obama Administration's drone war in tribal areas of Pakistan is mostly spent on the dead. News articles tally the number of "militants" killed. Occasionally dead innocents break into the headlines as statistics. "Drone Strike Kills 13 Civilians." There are never names.
A new report published by the international law clinics at New York University and Stanford grapples with dead innocents. But it also highlights interviews with people living through the drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. They are human reminders that America's drone campaign affects not only those hit by missiles, whether rightly or wrongly, but also innocents all around them.
Our drones are attacking the community where they live.
The American public is told by the Obama Administration that drone strikes are surgical. Precise. That they "limit collateral damage." And that civilian casualties are rare. Is that the truth?
Does it adequately capture reality?
Ponder a few interviews from the report -- decide for yourself.
All these stories take place in Northwest Pakistan's tribal areas, a remote part of the country filled with poor people. Most are guilty of nothing at all. A minority are militants. Even among them, almost none poses an imminent threat to the American homeland. Just traveling to the nearest major city requires a journey of hours or even days spent traversing multiple military checkpoints. There are Taliban, some of whom pose a threat to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and other bad guys fighting the dodgy Pakistani government. Some locals sympathize with the bad guys. Many others want no more to do with them than you want to do with the nearest street gang to your house. Why haven't you eradicated it? That's why they haven't gotten rid of the militants.
An interview with a typical mother is as good a place to begin as any. She described what happens when her family hears an American drone hovering somewhere overhead. "Because of the terror, we shut our eyes, hide under our scarves, put our hands over our ears," she told her interviewer. Asked why, she said, "Why would we not be scared?" Said a father of three from a different family unit, "drones are always on my mind. It makes it difficult to sleep. They are like a mosquito. Even when you don't see them, you can hear them, you know they are there."
Said a day laborer, "I can't sleep at night because when the drones are there ... I hear them making that sound, that noise. The drones are all over my brain, I can't sleep. When I hear the drones making that drone sound, I just turn on the light and sit there looking at the light. Whenever the drones are hovering over us, it just makes me so scared." Added a politician, people "often complain that they wake up in the middle of the night screaming because they are hallucinating about drones."
Would you have nightmares if they flew over your house?
"When children hear the drones, they get really scared, and they can hear them all the time so they're always fearful that the drone is going to attack them," an unidentified man reported. "Because of the noise, we're psychologically disturbed, women, men, and children. ... Twenty-four hours, a person is in stress and there is pain in his head." A journalists who photographs drone strike craters agreed that children are perpetually terrorized. "If you bang a door," Noor Behram said, "they'll scream and drop like something bad is going to happen." Do your kids?
The terrified parents react there as they would here. Many pull their kids out of school, fearing they'll be killed by drones if they congregate in big groups. Kids make the same decision for themselves: "The children are crying and they don't go to school," says Ismail Hussain. "They fear that their schools will be targeted by the drones."
Faheem Qureshi is still just a teenager.
Back in 2009, he was the sole survivor of the first drone strike that President Obama ordered. He was "one of the top four students in his class before the drone strike fractured his skull and nearly blinded him," the report states. He's struggled ever since. "Our minds have been diverted from studying. We cannot learn things because we are always in fear of the drones hovering over us, and it really scares the small kids who go to school," he told his interviewer. "At the time the drone struck, I had to take exams, but I couldn't take exams after that because it weakened my brain. I couldn't learn things, and it affected me emotionally. My mind was so badly affected."
Of course, it isn't just parents and children who are affected.
Safdar Dawar, who leads an organization of tribal journalists, gave a superb description of what life is like for every innocent person in North Waziristan: "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."
Said Fahad Mirza, "We can't go to the markets. We can't drive cars. When they're hovering over us, we're all scared. One thinks they'll drop it on our house, and another thinks it'll be on our house, so we run out of our houses." Some refuse to leave their houses. Funerals are sparsely attended. Friends no longer visit one another's homes. Yet no one ever feels safe anyway.
Some go crazy from the stress.
Others just go homeless.
Says the report, "In North Waziristan, extended families live together in compounds that often contain several smaller individual structures. Many interviewees told us that often strikes not only obliterate the target house, usually made of mud, but also cause significant damage to three or four surrounding houses."
A 45-year-old farmer with five sons had that experience:
A drone struck my home... I was at work at that time, so there was nobody in my home and no one killed... Nothing else was destroyed other than my house," he explained. "I went back to see the home, but there was nothing to do -- I just saw my home wrecked... I was extremely sad, because normally a house costs around 10 lakh, or 1,000,000 rupees [US $10,593], and I don't even have 5,000 rupees now [US $53]. I spent my whole life in that house... my father had lived there as well. There is a big difference between having your own home and living on rent or mortgage... I belong to a poor family and my home has been destroyed.
Said another man interviewed in the report:
Before the drone attacks, it was as if everyone was young. After the drone attacks, it is as if everyone is ill. Every person is afraid of the drones.
|Posted on October 10, 2012 at 8:35 PM||comments (67)|
The Guardian, 24/September/2012
Living Under Drones, a new report from Stanford and New York universities, was a difficult piece of fieldwork – I was with the law students in Peshawar as they tried to interview victims of the CIA's drone war. But it has made an important contribution to the drone debate by identifying the innocent victims of the CIA's reign of terror: the entire civilian population of Waziristan (roughly 800,000 people).
Until now, the most heated dispute has revolved around how many drone victims in the Pakistan border region are dangerous extremists, and how many children, women or men with no connection to any terrorist group. I have been to the region, and have a strong opinion on this point – but until the area is opened up to media inspection, or the CIA releases the tapes of each hellfire missile strike, the controversy will rage on.
However, there can be no sensible disagreement over certain salient facts: first, the US now has more than 10,000 weaponised drones in its arsenal; second, as many as six Predator drones circle over one location at any given time, often for 24 hours a day, with high-resolution cameras snooping on the movements of everyone below; third, the Predators emit an eerie sound, earning them the name bangana (buzzing wasp) in Pashtu; fourth, everyone in the area can see them, 5,000ft up, all day – and hear them all night long; fifth, nobody knows when the missile will come, and turn each member of the family into what the CIA calls a "bugsplat". The Predator operator, thousands of miles away in Nevada, often pushes the button over a cup of coffee in the darkest hours of the Waziristan night, between midnight and 5am. So a parent putting children to bed cannot be sure they will wake up safely.
Every Waziri town has been terrorised. We may learn this from the eyewitness accounts in Living Under Drones, or surmise it from the exponential increase in the distribution of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication across the region.
Sometimes it is difficult for those comfortably ensconced in the west to understand. But for me, it brings to mind my mother, Jean Stafford Smith. In 1944 she was 17. She had left the safety of her school (she had been evacuated to the countryside) to do a secretarial course in London. Each evening she took the bus home from Grosvenor Place, behind Buckingham Palace, to her digs off Tottenham Court Road. Back then, darkness would truly descend on the city, as the blackout was near total.
Sixty-eight years on, my mother retains vivid memories of the gathering gloom. One night a week, she climbed the tower of a local church to spot for the fires that might spread from an explosion. When the doodlebugs (as V1s – Hitler's drones – were called) came over, she knew that she was safe so long as she could hear the engine. She knew, too, that the drones were indiscriminate killers, and that only when they fell silent did she have to worry where they might fall. Some of the engines apparently cut in and out, like the oscillating buzz of a chainsaw, heartstopping for the potential victims below.
In 1944, two doodlebugs hit the environs of Buckingham Palace, near where my mother learned shorthand. One landed on the palace wall, and blew out the secretarial school's windows. A second killed more than 100 people who had, until moments before, been singing hymns in the Guards Chapel on Birdcage Walk. It was a weekend, so my mother was back at her digs.
My mother, an eternal optimist, never really thought she was going to die, even when – on 30 June 1944 – a drone struck Tottenham Court Road. Perhaps reminiscent of the tragedy of 7/7, a witness described "a bus, still packed with people sitting in all the seats, but all the glass blown out and all the skin blown off their faces".
Many suffered far more than my mother, both in London and beyond. Indeed, they say that fear for those you love can be more devastating than facing danger yourself: my grandmother Vera, a formidable woman who had learned to trap rabbits in the Great Depression to keep food on the family table, lived 60 miles north of London near Ely, and worried constantly about her youngest daughter. The ripples of anxiety spread wide.
So little changes. Current RAF doctrine tells us, euphemistically, how "the psychological impact of air power, from the presence of a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to the noise generated by an approaching attack helicopter, has often proved to be extremely effective in exerting influence …" Perhaps they mean "terror", as described by David Rohde, a former New York Times journalist kidnapped and held by the Taliban for months in Waziristan. Rohde, quoted in Living Under Drones, describes the fear the drones inspired in ordinary civilians: "The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death."
I hope that this report reminds us all what the US – with British support – is doing to the people of Pakistan. Maybe then there will be less surprise at the hatred the drone war is engendering in the Islamic world – and a chance that we will reconsider what we are doing.
|Posted on October 7, 2012 at 3:00 PM||comments (65)|
New Yorker, May, 14, 2012
ABSTRACT: THE WORLD OF SURVEILLANCE about drones. The prospect of unmanned flight has been around—depending on your definition—since Archytas of Tarentum reputedly designed a steam-powered mechanical pigeon, in the fourth century B.C., or since Nikola Tesla, in 1898, demonstrated a radio-controlled motorboat at an exposition in Madison Square Garden. By the sixties the Air Force was deploying unmanned reconnaissance jets over Southeast Asia. Still, it was the advent, in the mid-nineties, of the Global Positioning System, along with advances in microcomputing, that ushered in the possibility of automated unmanned flight. The Department of Defense, meanwhile, developed a keen interest. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and manhunts in places like Yemen, the military applications, and the corporations devoted to serving them (Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman), came to dominate the skyscape. Many of these manufacturers had one client: the Department of Defense. In 2001, the military had just a few Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (U.A.V.s). Now it has more than ten thousand. Later this month, the F.A.A. will present a regulatory regimen enabling law-enforcement departments to fly small drones, and the military contractors will suddenly have some eighteen thousand potential new customers. As of now, only a tiny percentage of municipal and state police departments have any air presence, because most can’t afford helicopters or planes. Small camera-loaded U.A.V.s are much cheaper. The public proposition, at this point, anyway, is not that drones will subjugate or assassinate unwitting citizens but that they will conduct search-and-rescue operations, fight fires, catch bad guys, inspect pipelines, spray crops, count nesting cranes and migrating caribou, and measure weather data and algae growth. For these and other tasks, they are useful and well suited. Of course, they are especially well suited, and heretofore have been most frequently deployed, for surveillance. “The nature of technology is that it is introduced for one role and then it slippery-slopes into unintended roles,” Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution said. Singer believes that the drones will be as transformative as the advent of gunpowder, the steam engine, the automobile, or the computer. “Their intelligence and autonomy is growing,” he said. “It used to be that an aerial surveillance plane had to fly close. Now sensors on a U.A.V. can detect a milk carton from sixty thousand feet. The law’s not ready for all this.” Writer visits the headquarters of drone manufacturer AeroVironment and sees test flights of some of the company’s products. Discusses concerns about drones and privacy. Tells about the Nano Hummingbird created by AeroVironment’s Nano Lab. Describes other micro aerial vehicles being created at Harvard.
|Posted on October 6, 2012 at 11:20 AM||comments (222)|
Marching to Waziristan
by Judy Bello
First thing in the morning I'll board the bus heading for South Waziristan. Thirty five westerners will be heading for Dehr Ismail Khan and on to the border town of Kotkai, including Clive Stafford Smith of the London based organization Reprieve, who started our defending prisoners in Guantanamo, and is now focused on mounting lawsuits for the survivors of drone attacks and the families of those who did not survive and other members of Reprieve; including about 30 members of the colorful American antiwar group, CodePink and their intrepid leader, Medea Benjamin, who organized this mission; including representatives of the Christian Peacekeepers, Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars and the United National Antiwar Coalition in the United States and many others.
Our hosts for this mission are Shahzad Akhbar and the three lovely Maryams (all lawyers) on his staff at the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a sister organization to Reprieve, conveniently based in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan which happens to be located in the north of the country, not for from the rural home of the Pakhtuns. Besides hosting us, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights invites the injured parties to come to Islamabad and tell their stories, then prepares lawsuits to bring before the high court of Pakistan for them against the Pakistani government and American authorities in Pakistan. It was the Foundation for Fundamental Rights that sued the American CIA chief in Pakistan some time last year, thereby causing him to make a quick exit from the country.
Our sponsor or the Delegation is Imran Khan, leader of PTI, the Pakistan Tehreekh-e-Inshaf party, a rightist, leftist, populist party that has a surprising number of women and young people among it's supporters. Khan has adopted the anti Drone campaign, and supports ending American military presence in Pakistan and ending American abuses of Pakistani sovereignty as a prelude to true friendship between our countries. Earlier this evening we went to a rally with PTI Youth. We gathered with them in a large 'Super Market', which is something like a cross between a traditional bazaar and a modern mall, and marched through the streets chanting and singing. We were shouting "Stop! Stop! Drone Attacks! and singing "We are Maaaarching to Waziristan; Marching to Waziristan". Then, "Bandkro! Bandkro! Drone Humlah Bandkro!" and "Jarub, Jarub Waziristan. Jarub!"  Nice symmetry in the messages, I thought.
I opened the newspaper when I got home and saw a little back page article saying that the Taliban had denied ever giving permission to Khan for a march into their territory. It's a push pull. Yesterday, Imran Khan gave a big press conference and we got lots of coverage. Today a little nip of a backlash. When I first arrived, PTI had a press conference for us to talk about our intention to go to Waziristan with Imran, and the next day there was a front page article stating that the Taliban were determined to block us. Shahzad said the information was a week old. Khan's stance is that we are free people and have a right to travel where we will. Furthermore, the tribesmen whose land we will travel through have invited us and will treat us as guests.
Wow! We will be guests of of the Mehsud tribe. I think a couple of generations of their leadership have been primary targets of Drone strikes. Yesterday Richard Hoagland, the Charges d' Affairs of the US Consulate in Islamabad, came to call at our hotel. He was preceded by a contingent of Pakistani military men bearing weapons, who checked the place out and stationed guards at strategic points before he arrived. He gave a little talk, inviting us to avail ourselves of embassy services, and then had his security liaison say a (surprisingly) few words about the dangers of going into the Tribal Areas. Then we had some Q&A. I felt that we asked some good questions, but got little in the way of answers. Others were satisfied with tidbits and hints.
This afternoon, some members of the victims of Drone strikes families came to meet with us, along with one of their tribal leaders Malik Jalal Khan, who spoke for them, and a translator and Noor Behram, the photographer who has taken most of the photos we have of the victims and post attack wreckage in the villages of North Waziristan in Pakistan. Noor says that he has photographed the bodies of 100 children, and has seen more. Whenever he hears of an attack he goes to the location immediately, but even so he sometimes arrives too late and the child has already been buried. Sometimes there is nothing left to photograph.
Malik Jalal Khan is a handsome man with a big turban, a big beard and a twinkle in his eye. He's a guy whose cellphone rings during the meeting and his business has precedence. According to Jalal Khan, women killed in the strikes are often not reported as missing or dead. Women are part of the private space and their lives and deaths are not appropriate subjects for public discourse. It's a cultural context that seems very alien to us, but it is their way of life. He said that in many cases, the missiles strike while the women are working in a kitchen, just off the main room where men may be meeting and drinking their tea. He seems to find this detail particularly disturbing; women murdered while doing housework; women killed while caring for their families. Is that worse then women killed while sleeping; women killed while having a conversation among themselves?
I always remind people that the compounds we hear about in the news, the compounds that are the most likely targets of drone strikes are actually people's homes. Shahzad explains to us that these homes which are compounds, house extended families with as many as 50 or 60 people. It told him it appears to me that the strikes are in a very small area. The translator, at this point, became very agitated, and after a lively discussion in Pashto, he asserted that the strike were not confined to a small area, but rather they are everywhere. Shahzad followed up by pointing out that one person's small area may not seem so small to another.
In any case, the vision is that the drone strikes are everywhere in their world, and anyone who reads a newspaper anywhere in the world knows that they occur pretty regularly 1 or 2 a week, or perhaps every other week. Someone asked if the strikes caused people to leave the region. Jalal Khan said that some do leave, and others just retreat into the mountains when they are feeling unsafe, then return to their lands. He said that he himself does this at times. When asked how the constant threat affects their lives, he said that their culture is being undermined because people no longer congregate in large numbers for public functions, weddings, funerals. Children don't go to school. Jirgas are threatened so leaders don't meet in large groups.
When asked whether he supports terrorists, Jalal Khan said that they don't go to fight in Afghanistan because the border is no longer open the way it was before the war on terror. He said they lived open and dignified lives then, before they became the target of our wars. But now they can't even visit their relatives in towns a few miles away on the other side of the Afghan border. People have become isolated, anxious and depressed. According to Shahzad, there are increasing numbers of people taking Zantac and other anti-anxiety drugs to get through the day.
Yesterday we met with Acting Ambassador Richard Hoagland, Charge d'Affairs at the American Embassy in Islamabad. Ambassador Hoagland came to our hotel to welcome us to Pakistan, and to warn us of the dangers of pushing the boundaries there. Here are some samples of the following Q&A with Ambassador Hoagland.
CodePink: Can you provide an estimate of civilian casualties?
A Hoagland: Since July 2008, “in the two figures”.
A Hoagland: Can’t answer. There are hardly any, if any at all.
The Ambassador first gives an estimate of civilian casualties due to drones that may be up to 100, a number considerably less than the number that emerged from actual research in the region, and through the work of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. He then dismisses even that figure as ‘hardly any, if any at all’. Since we have seen the photos of 100 dead children and heard the stories of family members of other victims, this response seems not only inaccurate, but calloused.
CodePink: Is there compensation for drone victims in Pakistan?
A Hoagland: it has to be set up, but it's not impossible.
CodePink: Is the Pakistani government at highest level complicit in drone strikes?
A Hoagland: I can’t answer that, ask the Pakistani Government.
The latter is an open question discussed at great length on the street in both Pakistan and the US. My take is that the drone strikes were far less prevalent during the Musharraf period when the ISI was directly involved in selecting targets. Since the Obama administration began, the Pakistani military has been excluded from decision making and any official complicity is superficial. Given the massive rejection of the strikes within large segments of the civilian population of Pakistan, recent public protests against the drone strikes by their government would appear to be sincere, if inexcusably weak.
CodePink: What can we do to stop the drone attacks?
A Hoagland: Maybe bring the issue of drones to the International criminal courts.
Shahzad Akhbar: Unfortunately it's the Pakistani Government that has to do that.
Shahzad Akhbar: What does Pakistan have to do to get the US to pay attention to how bad the drone program is?
A Hoagland: Address the issue through legal mechanisms.
CodePink: How does the violation of Pakistan's sovereignty affect diplomacy?
A Hoagland: The government of Pakistan has lodged official protests against US Drone Program.
CodePink: Is it true the US ambassador signs off on every drone strike.
A Hoagland: Can't comment
It's tough to sort this out, but it looks like it is the Pakistani Government's responsibility to file a complaint, and they have done so. However, no one is interested. And drone victims are only the tip of the iceberg in this context. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Pakistani nationals have been detained by or at the request of US officials during the War on Terror. There are men sold to the Americans or picked up by accident along the border, who have been incarcerated without charges at Bagram for as many as 10 years. We met their relatives last night. Apparently they have a process, but the process doesn't necessarily lead to any resolution of their status. Worse, they have been deliberately silenced. If they talk about the details of their treatment during incarceration, or how they came to be there, they are threatened and punished.
And then there are the men in Guantanamo, and those in Pakistani prisons. I met with the relatives of some of the latter a couple of days ago. And there are the ones like Aafia Siddiqui who somehow ended up with more than a life sentence in the US. An American citizen with a PhD in cognitive neurology and 3 small children, Aafia was snatched from the streets of Islamabad and spent 5 years in Bagram before being extradited to the US. We'll never know why this bright, passionate woman was picked up in the first place because, by the time she was accused of an actual crime she had already been in detention under the worst of conditions for 5 years.
And it would be worth remembering that just as Aafia Siddiqui is an American Citizen, Pakistan is an American ally. Aafia Siddiqui's family has been threatened for speaking out just as the families of the Bagram detainees have. And it appears that the government of Pakistan dare not defy the US hegemon either. This is how we treat our friends and those who freely choose to join our society. Jalal Khan said, "Once we were Mujahedin. Now we are Terrorists."
CodePink: Will there be Drone strikes during march?,
Hoagland: "I can assure you with 100% certainty; the march will not be targeted.
Well, that’s a relief. Too bad all the citizens of Waziristan won’t be under our umbrella.
Today, a busload of CodePinkers went to visit the American Embassy in Islamabad. They were denied entry. But tomorrow we are going to Waziristan, to stand under a pristine sky that has been darkened by drones, with a people whose lives have been dismissed in the name of our freedom. Pakistanis are saying, if we will go, then they have to go. We all have to go to Waziristan or none of us can be free.
 My sincere apologies to Urdu speakers for abusing your language
 Based on CodePink Twitters during the meeting, along with some clarifications.