Raining death from the sky
If I could meet President Obama, the first thing I’d like to ask him about are drones. Drones are touted as a precise tool to kill dangerous enemies far away without risking American life, and the U.S. has used them since 2002. But human rights advocates have questioned their accuracy and more fundamentally, their legality for years, and are at best met with evasive assurances from the government that we can trust their secrecy-shrouded kill program.
Our worst fears are confirmed by a report released yesterday indicating that drone attacks are not as precise or strategic as we’ve been told. Researchers found that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties--as many as 881 innocent people killed since 2004. Beyond these deaths, residents of targeted areas pay a deep psychological toll from living in constant fear of drone strikes. And because drone strikes can involve multiple missiles, relatives and rescuers are forced to steer clear of victims after a first strike, for fear of being killed by a subsequent missile.
Further, the study finds that of the suspected militants killed, only 2% are “high-level” targets who pose a serious threat to the U.S. Instead of making our country safer, the persistent fear, injuries, and civilian deaths wrought by drone strikes contribute to anti-American sentiments and serve as a powerful recruitment tool for militants. So not only are we flouting international law, we’re actually creating more enemies.
It’s personal for me as a Pakistani American who advocates for better ways to create safe communities than our tired, failed “lock ‘em up” policies. So when the Administration declares that all military-aged men in a strike zone are considered “combatants” by default, it’s nothing new--I’ve heard law enforcement use the same logic to argue that young men of color from x neighborhood are gang members. The “strike first, question later” attitude taints our streets, subways, and skies. Where does it end?
I confess I only learned about this report through Lupe Fiasco’s twitter. It wasn’t all over facebook, as I would have expected. So please read the report, check out the website, and share with a friend.