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Archive for category BREAKING INTERNATIONAL LAW:DRONE ATTACKS

CRITICAL LOGISTIC IMPORTANCE OF KARACHI FOR US EXIT: The Pakistan supply routes are “critical,” Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, deputy chief for Army logistics

Supply route closure impedes Afghan withdrawal 

 
 

 
 
By John Ryan
Staff writer
Soldiers run a 40-mile convoy, consisting of coalition and host-nation trucks, in southern Afghanistan. The convoy covered 63 miles of rugged terrain during the 15-hour mission.

 
Soldiers run a 40-mile convoy, consisting of coalition and host-nation trucks, in southern Afghanistan. The convoy covered 63 miles of rugged terrain during the 15-hour mission. (Army)
 

U.S. military commanders are pushing to reopen key supply routes through Pakistan and expand logistics lines in central Asia as the Army begins to draw down from Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s government shut down American cargo lines linking Karachi to Kabul after a Nov. 26 NATO airstrike accidentally killed more than 20 Pakistani soldiers.

Previously, one-third of American war supplies moved through Pakistan. Before the Pakistan shutdown, moving cargo into Afghanistan cost about $17 million a month.

Since then, coalition forces have relied on the Northern Distribution Network, a system of supply lines in countries such as Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan,http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/01/ap-us-costs-soar-for-new-war-supply-routes-011912/“>inflating supply costs by $87 million more per month, as of mid-January.

Retrograding materials and equipment from the war zone will require the Pakistan Ground Lines of Communications and the NDN in Asia, Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, deputy chief for Army logistics, said at a House hearing March 28.

“We need to continue to negotiate and get that back open,” Mason said. “We need both methods to get out of Afghanistan.”

In late February, Air Force Gen. William Fraser III, head of the U.S. Transportation Command, told a Senate panel the NDN lines should be widened into a two-way route to facilitate a transition out of theater on schedule.

Marine Gen. John Allen, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, has been talking terms with Pakistan, Pentagon press secretary George Little said in an April 3 news release.

“We remain hopeful that those routes will be reopened in the near future, and discussions with the Pakistanis continue,” Little said.

Meanwhile, the Army and TRANSCOM are experimenting with a concept Mason calls “back haul,” in which trucks drop goods in Afghanistan and carry out a load when they leave. Before, cargo vehicles simply left empty.

The commands are looking to run back hauls regularly, Mason said.

Unlike retrograde ops in Iraq, U.S. forces will probably have to carry home most military materials, Mason said. The U.S. sold about $1 billion in military equipment to Iraqis before departing last year.

“The vast majority of what’s in Afghanistan — because of the conditions here — we are probably going to have to move out of that country,” he said.

About 50,000 vehicles will be shipped stateside from Afghanistan, and roughly 2,000 personnel will deploy to help move gear, according to Army officials.

Once at U.S. depots, combat equipment might cost more than $15 billion to reset, Mason said.

In 2008, the NDN was developed as an alternative to Pakistan supply lines, expensive airlift and slow-moving sea transport, according to a Senate staff report from December.

The network carries non-lethal supplies, including construction materials, food and fuel, the Senate report said.

Eighty-five percent of the fuel supply flows through northern routes, along with 30 percent of supplies that had previously come through Pakistan.

Most NDN cargo enters Afghanistan through Uzbekistan’s Hairaton Gate. Transporting gear through the NDN may involve multiple travel modes — air and ground — which boosts costs, Mason said.

The U.S. has relied more heavily on airlift recently. Last year, aircraft delivered 80 million pounds of cargo in Afghanistan, up from 60 million pounds the year before, according to the Air Mobility Command.

The Pakistan supply routes are “critical,” he said.

 

 

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

 
Apr. 10, 2012 – 08:30PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 10, 2012 – 08:30PM  | 

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Terrorists are not Martyrs

                                                    Terrorists are not Martyrs

              Sajjad Shaukat

 

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People from different walks of life including politicians, religious scholars (Ulemas) and media persons have expressed their feelings of grief on the recent comments of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and especially of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Ameer Syed Munawar Hassan who evolved new theory on Shahadat (Martyrdom).  

 

Maulana Fazlur Rehman in an interview with senior journalist Saleem Safi on November 5, this year on a renowned TV channel program Jirga said, “Even a dog killed by the US is a martyr.” 

 

In a separate interview conducted by Safi on November 7, JI Ameer, Munawar Hassan stated, “If American soldiers being killed by the Taliban were not martyrs, how could Pakistani soldiers killed by Taliban be declared martyrs.” In an earlier statement made on November 3, Hassan had already triggered controversy when he declared Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr following his death in a US drone strike.

 

In this regard, a spokesman of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on November 10, strongly condemned the irresponsible and misleading remarks of the JI Ameer Syed Munawar Hassan, saying that he declared dead terrorists as Shuhada (Martyred), while insulting the Shahadat of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and soldiers of Pakistan’s armed forces. The spokesman explained, “Sacrifices of our Shuhada and their families need no endorsement from Syed Munawar Hassan and such misguided and self-serving statements deserve no comments,” demanding an unconditional apology from him.

 

Instead of apologizing for his derogatory and illogical remarks, Syed Munawar Hassan said on November 10 that he was stuck to his opinion of considering Hakimullah Mehsud as martyr and not viewing soldiers as such. General Secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami, Liaquat Baloch announced on November 11 that its Ameer’s statement was correct and according to Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence).

 

While denouncing the ill-conceived thoughts of Syed Munawar Hassan, various leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party, Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement including law-makers and prominent figures pointed out, “We should salute to those mothers, widows and orphans whose dear ones sacrificed their lives for the cause of the motherland. Besides, all those personnel of the security forces who lost their lives for the integrity of the nation and all those innocent people who were killed in bomb blasts, suicide attacks and other terror-incidents are martyrs.”  They reminded, “Every child in Pakistan knows that 7,000 security officials and more than 40,000 innocent citizens including religious scholars have been killed by the TTP led by Hakimullah Mehsud…the JI Ameer’s statement means to scorn the sacrifices of our great martyrs who lost their priceless lives to save the lives of millions of Pakistani citizens in the ruthless terrorist attacks carried out by these Taliban.”

 

Some leaders suggested that If JI Ameer did not beg forgiveness over his controversial statement; the government should institute a case of treason.

In this respect, the members of Sindh Assembly in one voice also demanded from Jamaat-e-Islami Chief Munawar Hassan to apologize over his irresponsible statement which questioned the martyrdom of Pak Army and law-enforcing agencies.

Meanwhile, in order to clarify the controversy over martyrdom, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif of the ruling party (PML-N) visited the General Headquarters (GHQ) of Pakistan Army on November 12 and pad homage to the martyrs of the country. Afterwards, a statement released from the Prime Minister House quoted the PM as saying, “Those who have fought for Pakistan, Ghazis (living) and Shuhada (Martyred), have sacrificed their today for ensuring a better tomorrow for our future generations and all of them are our benefactors.”

However, on the issue of martyrs and terrorists, the opinion of Ulemas has great importance. In this context, on November 10, Chairman Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Hamid Raza Rizvi from a fatwa issued by 30 scholars and religious clerics, and terming statements by Munawar Hasan and Maulana Fazlur Rahman as “rubbing salt on the wounds of heirs of over 50,000 people killed in terrorist attacks in Pakistan,” announced, “Hakimullah was involved in killing of thousands of innocent people and army men. The fact that he was killed by a US drone could not purge him of his sins and he was not a martyr.” On November 12, accepting the challenge of TTP spokesman Shahhidullah Shahid on Shahadat-controversy, Hamid Raza replied that he was ready for debate with the Taliban on any channel.

It is mentionable that in the past few years, the militants of the TTP and its affiliated outfits killed thousands of persons across Pakistan through suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings, beheadings, assaults on military troops, police stations, sectarian violence etc. Besides blowing children schools and attacking the female teachers in order to deny education to girls, they also targeted mosques, Imambargahs, mausoleums, and disgraced dead bodies. Their nefarious acts resulted into deaths of several people in Pakistan. They continued their anti-social and un-Islamic practices to impose their self-created ideology of Islam.

In the Khyber agency, they also indulged in murdering and torturing Shias in their majority areas, forcing them to flee. Particularly, in some tribal areas and Swat these insurgents have been involved in a number of crimes such as drug-smuggling, forced marriages, hostage-takings for ransom and even car-snatching. They justify that they collect money through these unfair means to wage their holy war and in eliminating the moderate dissidents.

When Pakistan’s armed forces successfully ejected the TTP militants out of these areas by sacrificing their own lives, the new leader of the TTP Maulvi Fazlullah who had close connections with Pakistan-based TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, had run to Afghanistan. Based in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan—with the support of Indian secret agency RAW, Afghan spy service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) which also have tactical backing of the US, his insurgents intensified subversive activities in Pakistan by sending suicide bombers and heavily-equipped militants.

Notably, the capture of a senior TTP leader Latifullah Mehsud by US Special Forces (USF) from Afghan custody, confessed that Afghanistan and India were involved in promoting terrorist activities inside Pakistan. He also revealed that while waging proxy wars in Pakistan, terrorist attacks on Gen. Sanaullah Khan Niazi in Upper Dir, at Peshawar Church, in Qissa Khawani Bazar and elsewhere had been planned by Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies. Especially, regarding terror-attack at Peshawar church, TTP did not claim responsibility, but it proved when the outfit misinterpreted Islam by indicating that it was in accordance with Sharia.

However, the militant groups also recruit very young boys, and after their brainwashing through indoctrination, they train them for suicide bombings. The planners misguide these Muslims by convincing that they will have a noble place in the Heavens in exchange of suicide attacks.

Nevertheless, Islam considers killing one innocent person equal to murdering the entire humanity, while jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as targeting innocent women and children is not jihad. These Taliban and their banned affiliated outfits are defaming Islam which is the religion of peace, democracy, moderation and human rights.

In this connection, in the recent past, more than 50 Islamic scholars declared “killing of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombings in Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa along with sectarianism…is not Jehad” and “is against the spirit of Islam.” They explained, “The terrorists’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam is nothing, but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion…the suicide attacks and related violence smeared the name of Islam and weakened Pakistan.”

Everyone knows that besides responding to Indian military’s unprovoked firings at the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, which killed a number of soldiers of Pak Army and innocent civilians, thousands of personnel of the armed forces and law-enforcing agencies lost their lives in Khyber Paktoonkhwa, Karachi, Balochistan and tribal areas in coping with terrorists so as to maintain the integrity and security of the country. So, they are the true martyrs.

Another notable contradiction is that when the JI workers were fighting the forces of the former Soviet Union in the first Afghan war, sponsored by the US-led west, they were calling their killed Mujadeen as Shaheed. But, now this party has forgotten the term of martyrdom.

Nonetheless, the JI Ameer’s self-created definition of Shaheed means that there is a state within a state where Taliban could be allowed to slash the throats of security forces and to shed the blood of innocent persons.

No doubt, Munawar Hassan’s statement has exposed the extremist thinking of JI and its vilification propaganda campaign to harm, defame and denigrate the prodigious sacrifices of Pakistan’s soldiers, with criminal object to glorify the enemies of the state, while terrorists are not martyrs.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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Family of grandmother killed in US drone strike arrive for Congress visit

 

 

Family of grandmother killed in US drone strike arrive for Congress visit

Rafiq ur Rehman discusses his family’s journey from Pakistan to Washington DC, where they will seek answers on Capitol Hill

 

Pakistani protesters, drones, Multan

Pakistani protesters demonstrate against US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas, in Multan on 14 July. Photograph: SS Mirza/AFP/Getty Images

Drawing on a pad of paper in a Washington DC hotel, Nabeela ur Rehman recalled the day her grandmother was killed. “I was running away,” the nine-year told the Guardian. “I was trying to wipe away the blood.”

“It was as if it was night all of the sudden.”

The date was 24 October 2012, the eve of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holy day. Nabeela’s father, Rafiq ur Rehman, a school teacher living in the remote Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, was dropping off sweets at his sister’s home when it happened.

He had hoped to make the visit a family affair but his mother urged him to go alone. Rafiq did as she wished then stopped at the local mosque for evening prayers before taking the bus home. As the vehicle came to a halt at his stop, Rehman noticed something unsettling: members of his community were preparing to bury a body at a small graveyard nearby.

“I got a little worried,” Rehman said. He asked a boy what was going on. The child informed him that the mother of a man named Latif Rehman had been killed in a drone attack. The boy did not know the man he spoke to was Latif Rehman’s younger brother.

Rafiq ur Rehman

Rafiq ur Rehman.

“That’s when I first knew,” Rehman said, describing how he learned of his mother’s death. The fruits Rehman had collected at the bazaar fell from his hands. “I just dropped everything. I was in a state of shock,” he said. Rehman feared the worst. He knew his children were with their grandmother. “I frantically ran to my house.”

Rehman arrived home to find that the charred remains of his mother had already been buried. Two of his children, Nabeela and her 12-year-old brother, Zubair, had been injured and taken to a nearby hospital, neighbors said. “At that point, I thought I had lost them as well,” Rehman said.

The children survived the attack, but their recovery process was just beginning. A year later, Rehman still has no idea why his mother, Momina Bibi, a 67-year-old midwife, was blown to pieces while tending her garden. Along with Nabeela and Zubair, Rehman has traveled to Washington DC to seek answers. On Tuesday, the family will appear before members of Congress to describe their experience, marking the first time in history that US lawmakers will hear directly from the survivors of an alleged US drone strike.

On Sunday, in their first interview with US media since arriving to the country and speaking through a translator, Rehman and his children described the day Momina Bibi was killed and their efforts since then to find justice. Zubair, now 13, said the sky was clear the day his grandmother died. He had just returned home from school. Everyone had been in high spirits for the holiday, Zubair said, though above their heads aircraft were circling. Not airplanes or helicopters, Zubair said.Drones.

“I know the difference,” Zubair said, explaining the different features and sounds the vehicles make. “I am certain that it was a drone.” Zubair recalled a pair of “fireballs” tearing through the clear blue sky, after he stepped outside. After the explosion there was darkness, he said, and a mix of smoke and debris.

“When it first hit, it was like everyone was just going crazy. They didn’t know what to make of it,” Zubair said. “There was madness.” A piece of shrapnel ripped into the boy’s left leg, just above his kneecap. A scar approximately four inches in length remains. “I felt like I was on fire,” he said. The injury would ultimately require a series of costly operations.

Nabeela, the little girl, was collecting okra when the missiles struck. “My grandma was teaching me how you can tell if the okra is ready to be picked,” she said. “All of the sudden there was a big noise. Like a fire had happened.

“I was scared. I noticed that my hand was hurting, that there was something that had hit my hand and so I just started running. When I was running I noticed that there was blood coming out of my hand.”

Nabeela continued running. The bleeding would not stop. She was eventually scooped up by her neighbors. “I had seen my grandmother right before it had happened but I couldn’t see her after. It was just really dark but I could hear [a] scream when it had hit her.”

 
 
 
 
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Drone strikes have been a major source of friction between the US and Pakistan. Photo: James Lee Harper Jr/AFP/Getty Images

Early media reports, citing anonymous Pakistani officials, claimed as many as four militants were killed in the attack. The strike drew the attention of an Amnesty International researcher, Mustafa Qadri, who was investigating drone attacks in Pakistan at the time.

“We got all sorts of different stories to begin with,” Qadri told the Guardian. “One was that [Bibi] was preparing a meal for some militants and that’s why she was killed. Another one was that there was a militant on a motorbike, right next to her. And then there’s this story of, that there was a militant in a jeep, SUV, with a satellite phone, at the exact point that she’s killed, but 10 minutes earlier. He used the phone and then he drives off into the distance. And then the drones come later and they kill her. So we found that that just really did not add up.”

Qadri reached out to trusted sources in North Waziristan. The family members and their neighbors were interviewed independently on multiple occasions, unaware that a human-rights group was behind the questions they were asked. Over the course of many weeks, Qadri found the family’s account to be consistent. He determined it was highly unlikely that any militants were present at the time of the strike and that the missiles were likely fired by a US drone.

“It was a number of things,” Qadri told the Guardian. “We got the missiles, the large fragments that the family has that we got analyzed by [an] expert who says this is very likely to be a Hellfire missile. We also had family members who saw drones physically. We also have the eyewitness of the family who said they heard the noise of missiles fired from the sky and then separate noises of missiles impacting on the ground. We have the evidence of a double sound, with each single strike.”

Among the most striking evidence that the attack was carried out by a US drone, Qadri said, was the “phenomenal accuracy” of the strike. “It physically hits her,” he said, referring to Momina Bibi. “She’s literally hit flush and is blown to smithereens.”

“It’s quite awful obviously … but in this sort of a situation where the body is destroyed, clearly she’s been targeted,” Qadri added. “They meant to kill this person.”

Qadri argues that US secrecy surrounding its so-called “targeted killing” program exacerbates an already complicated set of problems in Pakistan’s tribal regions.

“That secrecy, the unaccountability, the lack of lawfulness to it, is the key problem,” he said. “In the context of Pakistan and just in the very micro sense, I don’t think drones alone is the problem. It’s the way they’re used and it’s the way they’re used in isolation, ignoring the broader factors in that region.”

The State Department, in response to questions concerning the strike, directed the Guardian to the transcript of a 22 October press briefing by deputy spokesperson Marie Harf.

“There’s a process that goes into how these operations are chosen, and as part of that process, we take every effort to limit these casualties,” Harf said, echoing claims the president made in a counterterrorism speech in May.

The briefing fell two days before the one-year anniversary of Bibi’s death. It did not address the United States‘ alleged responsibility for the attack. The CIA, which runs drone programs in Pakistan, declined to comment on the strike. The agency suggested the Guardian contact the White House. The White House did not respond.

Nabeela spent most of her days with her grandmother. “I really liked my grandma,” she said. “I enjoyed following her and learning how to do things.” Zubair said his grandmother was liked by all. “There’s no one else like her. We all loved her.” In the year since his mother’s death, Rehman said, life has changed dramatically. “Not having her is as if a limb has been cut,” he said.

For Rehman’s father, a respected headmaster a local school, the death of his wife has been devastating. The couple was unaccustomed to being apart, Rehman said. “After my mom’s death, we haven’t really seen our dad smile. It’s like he doesn’t have any more will for going on.”

Rehman’s journey to the US was the idea of his attorney, Shahzad Ahkbar, an internationally-known critic of US drone policy. In the weeks following Bibi’s death, the US documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald traveled to Pakistan to shoot for a forthcoming film on drone attacks, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars. Ahkbar introduced Greenwald to Rehman and his family.

“I could never have imagined that I would be coming to America or I’d want to come to America. I didn’t know how people were,” Rehman said. “But then Robert had come and they were listening to our story and then Shahzad, our lawyer, had told us that there are more people like Robert who would love to hear the truth and know the truth.”

Greenwald said: “When I was in Pakistan, interviewing a whole series of people, they stayed in my mind. At the moment when I was interviewing them I had this very strong feeling that it would be very helpful if Americans could see and experience a father, a teacher, children, the loss of a mother, the loss of a grandmother. Those are universals.

He added: “On the policy side, I hope the briefing will begin the process of demanding investigation. Innocent people are being killed.”

US officials say the White House does have a count of civilian drone-strike casualties. The figure, they say, is considerably lower than publicly available counts. The administration has declined to disclose its number, however, citing national security. “Some things will never be able to be made public so we can protect, indeed, our ability to continue conducting these operations to, indeed, protect our country,” Harf said last week.

Alan GraysonCongressman Alan Grayson.

Together Rehman, his attorney and the US director set out to bring the family to the US. For months they worked to secure paperwork for the children (who lacked birth certificates). Eventually Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, and a number of others extended a formal invitation. A hearing was scheduled for last month, but the event was postponed when the US state department declined to issue a visa for Ahkbar.

“I ideally wanted to come with my lawyer and it was very unfortunate that he couldn’t come along with me,” Rehman said. Despite the setback, he continued. With Grayson’s help, the family secured the Tuesday briefing in Congress.

The purpose of the briefing, Representative Grayson told the Guardian, is “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”

“Under many people’s view of international law, they’re all illegal. All these attacks are illegal. The UN charter, as was discussed with great vehemence during the recent debate about military intervention in Syria, the UN charter sanctions the use of force only when a country is under attack, in self defense, or when it’s been sanctioned by the UN security council.

“It is an abuse of the term ‘self-defense’ to say that our launching drone attacks in Yemen or elsewhere in the world qualifies. The fact that the technology is there doesn’t change the fact that it’s a use of force that ends up killing people.”

Rehman described the message he hopes to convey to the American people through the briefing: “I want them to know the drones are having an impact on our lives.”

“It’s hitting our elders. It took my mom. It’s affected my children and we haven’t done anything wrong.”

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US Agent Nawaz Sharif asked to help stop drone strikes

 

Nawaz asked to help stop drone strikes

 
 
 
 

 

 

PESHAWAR: A group of elders hailing from North Waziristan on Saturday asked prime minister-designate Nawaz Sharif to help stop the drone attacks in the tribal areas.

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Speaking at a press conference here, the elders, including Malik Jalal Khan, Malik Gulabat Khan, Malik Raees Khan and Member Provincial Assembly from Bannu Shah Muhammad Khan said that innocent tribespersons were being killed in the drone strikes.

 

They said the tribespeople had attached high expectations to the government-in-waiting to bring an end to the drone hits. The elders said peace couldn’t be restored in the country if the drone attacks were not stopped.

 

“Peace cannot be restored unless the drone attacks are halted,” an elder said and hoped the incoming government would hold talks with the Taliban and would opt out of the so-called war on terror.They said whenever there is some talk of negotiations with the Taliban the US carried out the drone attack to sabotage the peace process.

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Dealing Remote-Control Drone Death, the US Has Lost Its Moral Compass

Published on Saturday, May 4, 2013 by The Guardian/UK

Dealing Remote-Control Drone Death, the US Has Lost Its Moral Compass

Anti-drone protesters hold signs before the start of the Senate intelligence committee hearing on the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. (Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA)The armed drone is being heralded as the next generation of American military technology. It can fly overheard with its unblinking eye, almost invisible to its targets below. Without warning, its missiles will strike, bringing certain death and destruction on the ground. All the while, the military pilot, sitting in a cushioned recliner in an air-conditioned room halfway across the world, is immune from the violence wrought from his or her single keystroke.

While the debate about drones in this country swirls around the precision of the weapon, the sometimes faulty intelligence behind its unleashing of a missile, the ability to keep American boots off the ground, or the legality of the strikes, few take into consideration the morality of the weapon and the damaging effects of its use on both the people targeted and the individuals operating it. The ripples of the drone strikes are felt far beyond those killed or wounded in the actual strike.

Americans are just now becoming dimly aware of the problems and dangerous precedents being set for the future.

The drone is destabilizing the small tribal communities of the Pukhtun, Somali, and Yemeni with their ancient codes of honor, making it difficult to implement any long-term peace initiatives in the volatile regions already being pounded by their own militaries. Too many stories have filtered into the media of innocent men, women, and children being killed.

People have fled their families and their homes due to the constant violence and are forced to live as destitute and vulnerable refugees in the slums of larger cities. They are lost without the protection of clan and code. The drone is also feeding into a growing anti-Americanism, becoming a deadly symbol of the United States, and fueling the recruitment of future terrorists.

At one stroke, the drone has destroyed any positive image of the United States in the countries over which it operates. It has contributed to the destruction of the tribal codes of honor, such as Pukhtunwali among the Pukhtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this immorality and destructive nature reflects back on those who use it, harming the warrior ethic of the American military so critical to battlefield bonding among soldiers in combat.

The warrior ethos may be largely a myth but, like most myths, it protects something very important: the psychology of killing in the name of the state. That killing becomes nothing less than murder when the soldier doing it is utterly invulnerable. Most US citizens, so long divorced from any responsibility to take up arms and fight and kill, do not understand this. Soldiers – good ones – do. Such understanding was behind the recent cancellation by Secretary of Defense Hagel of the valor award for drone operators.

Moreover, remote-controlled killing is a dishonorable way of fighting battle, not simply because it often results in the deaths of women and children and removes the combatants from face-to-face combat. It is making war more like a video game and giving technicians the dissociated power of life and death for the figures on the screen before them. It is making war into murder.

After over a decade mired in a seemingly endless war against a methodology as old as time, it is clear that the extension of military force is increasingly counterproductive.

However precise the weapon, this is the reality and the price on the ground, destroying the codes so vital to both parties involved – those who are targets and the people who see them die and the operators at their computer terminals. The use of the drone is creating more problems than it is solving.

Americans are just now becoming dimly aware of the problems and dangerous precedents being set for the future. We have read reports of drones the size of a mosquito, police gaining possession of potentially armed domestic drones, and violations of the laws of privacy in the United States. These are apart from the fact that many foreign powers, many of which are hostile to us, will soon have broad access to drone technology without any mechanisms or international agreements to regulate its use.

Washington has plunged blindly ahead, neglecting law – both domestic and international – protocol, and ethical codes. We find it distressing that the debate on the drone, which has now picked up in the United States, remains so narrow – with none of these points being raised except in esoteric circles. The debate has been enmeshed in the emotional responses to the war on terror: if you like the drone, you are pro-American; if you don’t, you are anti-American. It has, unfortunately, become a definition of patriotism despite its destructive nature on both sides.

After over a decade mired in a seemingly endless war against a methodology as old as time, it is clear that the extension of military force is increasingly counterproductive. The United States needs to pursue political, economic, diplomatic, and law enforcement solutions.

Instead of sending missiles and funding military operations that destroy societies, the US and its allied central governments should be funding education projects and development schemes and promoting honest and just civil administration. In this effort, we all should be guided by the Jewish shibboleth tikkun olam, to go out and “heal a fractured world”.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited
Lawrence Wilkerson

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy at the College of William and Mary. Previously, during a 31-year career in the US army, served as chief of staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powel

Akbar Ahmed

Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies at American Univerity in Washington, DC. He has also taught at Princeton, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities. Formerly, he was the Pakistan High Commissioner (ambassador) to the UK and Ireland. His most recent book is Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2011).

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