It was the day before Eid al-Adha, the holiest day in the year for Muslims. At 2:45 a year ago on a clear October afternoon in Ghundi Kala, a village in North Waziristan, Pakistan, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was picking okra in her family’s field alongside her five grandchildren.
They noticed U.S. drones flying overhead. They were used to that — the drones are often there. Her granddaughter Nabeela, 8 years old, described what happened next:
“First it whistled. Then I heard a ‘dhummm.’ The first hit us, and the second, my cousin. There was an explosion. We were scared, and I ran home. It was dark in front of our house. They brought me to the doctor in the village who gave me first aid. I was not scared before, but now, when the drone is flying, I am scared of it.” (democracynow.org, Oct.23)
Mamana Bibi was blown to bits. Pieces of her body were strewn around the field. When her children raced to the scene, another missile struck a few feet away. Her grandchildren were wounded, including 3-year-old Safdar, whose chest and shoulder bones were broken.
In July 2012, in that same Pakistani province, chromite miners, a woodcutter and a vegetable seller had gathered in a hut to talk and to cook their meal. The first drone missile killed eight. When people ran to the scene to rescue the wounded, another missile exploded, killing 10 more. (Reuters, Oct. 22) The dead included a 14-year-old boy.
“Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces,” Amnesty International quoted one witness as saying. “We started to panic and each person was trying to run in a different direction.”
“Some people lost their hands. Others had their heads cut off. Some lost their legs. Human body parts were scattered everywhere,” said a resident of Zowi Sidgi village, where the attack occurred.
The U.S. has conducted 376 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. Local media report that close to a thousand civilians have been killed.
Drones enable imperialist war, particularly “secret” wars like in Pakistan and Yemen. They are a delight to the generals and the politicians and of course the corporate masters that they serve. They are designed to prevent sparking the kind of mass opposition they faced from their oil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s not that the U.S. rulers mind sacrificing the lives of soldiers. But drones offer a new feature to their immense arsenal — no witnesses to their slaughter. There are no “embedded” reporters who might blow the whistle on an atrocity, no soldiers or pilots who might spill the beans. There is only a drone operator in a chair on some military base. Whole communities are terrorized by these fearsome weapons, largely unreported by the world’s press.
Reports by the locals who witness these attacks are dismissed out of hand. If the U.S. talks about the drones’ civilian casualties, they speak of a “tiny handful.”
When Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by Taliban gunmen, criticized drone attacks in a meeting with President Barack Obama, her remarks were largely ignored by the press.
“I also expressed my concern that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people,” she said.
“U.S. counterterrorism actions are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective … we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life,” claims White House press secretary Jay Carney. But studies by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organizations put a lie to that. In the HRW report titled “Between a Drone and al Qaeda,” two drone attacks it examined in Yemen killed “indiscriminately” in violation of the laws of war.
Many other reports indicate the same thing — thousands have been killed by these remote-control devices.
On Oct. 29, people in the U.S. will finally be able to hear from the victims of drone attacks. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla) will conduct a briefing of Rafiq ur-Rehman and two of his children, Zubair and Nabeela, will describe the drone attack that killed their grandmother, Mamana Bibi.
These drones, along with the rest of the dreadful weapons that U.S. imperialism unleashes on the poor around the world, must be eliminated now.