Senseless Drone Attacks on Pakistan: Obama’s Real Science-Fiction War

drone

Yesterday, June 24th, over 80 people were killed after a U.S. drone fired missiles at the funeral of a suspected commander of the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan.  Pakistani officials reported that the Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, escaped the attack while the majority of those killed were civilians.  Al-Jazeera English reports the following:

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said: “There are reports that Mehsud himself was at the congregational prayer and escaped the attack.

However, we are told that a number of people present at that particular moment were [also] killed. There were unconfirmed reports that the death toll is much higher because a number of the bodies are badly mutilated.

However, Qari Hussain, a close associate of Mehsud, denied reports that Mehsud had a close call and said many of the dead were civilians.

“Baitullah Mehsud was at a secret place at the time of the American missile attack, and the attack killed only five of our colleagues, and the remaining 45 slain men were villagers,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

There is some dispute over the causality numbers — some say over 45, some say over 65, some say over 80 — but does the exact number really matter when we’re (1) talking about human life and (2) what has now become a frequent routine sweep for U.S. drone attacks in the region?  Since President Obama’s inauguration in January, he has authorized regular attacks from unmanned U.S. predator drones on Pakistan, which has amounted to over 150 people.  As Jeremy Scahill writes in his article, Obama’s Undeclared War Against Pakistan Continues, Despite His Attempt to Downplay It,” that “Since 2006, U.S. drone strikes have killed 687 people (as of April). That amounts to about 38 deaths a month just from drone attacks.”

Last weekend, Obama sat down with Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, and stated that the U.S. has “no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan.”  He also mentioned that he knows how to cook some Pakistani dishes like qeema and daal, and expressed his appreciation for Urdu poetry.  Are these comments meant to soften the reality of U.S. operations inside of Pakistan?  Although Obama denies U.S. military presence in Pakistan, The New York Times reported the following in February:

American Special Operations troops based in Afghanistan have also carried out a number of operations into Pakistan’s tribal areas since early September, when a commando raid that killed a number of militants was publicly condemned by Pakistani officials. According to a senior American military official, the commando missions since September have been primarily to gather intelligence.

The drones are remotely-piloted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) which have been used a great deal in Iraq and Afghanistan.  What doesn’t seem to be discussed is that there is a lot of racism and ethnocentrism embedded in these drone strikes.  As Scahill comments, “the only difference between using these attack drones and using actual US soldiers on the ground is that the soldiers are living beings. These drones sanitize war and reduce the US death toll while still unleashing military hell disproportionately on civilians.”  In other words, the drone attacks tell us that human life is only important if it is American. When innocent Pakistanis are killed, all the Obama administration can say is they “regret it” because they have that privilege.

We’ve all seen it before in science fiction films and novels.  Robot armies and unmanned vehicles are deployed by nations with disproportionate military power (namely the United States) to protect their own civilians, but never showing the same concern for human beings in other countries.  Eventually, what happens is the machines take over and end up waging an indiscriminate war against all of humanity.  Remember Skynet from the Terminator series:  Cyborgs and machines built initially to protect Americans against “foreign threats” develop a system/mind of their own and become humanity’s worse enemy.  No, I am not suggesting that machines are going to take over the world in such dramatic fashion, but metaphorically, it’s already happening and right now, it’s benefiting the military superpower.  Imagine what would happen if another nation used these same drones to attack a town in the United States?  How would the U.S. react to that?

First, there were spears, then swords, then arrows, then catapults, then gunpowder, then rifles, then canons, then automatic weapons, then fighter aircraft, then missiles, then the atom bomb, and now we have unmanned aerial vehicles.  What’s next?  Android soldiers?  As much as we can appreciate human innovation and technological advancement in things like the internet and telecommunication, why is that most of our government spending is invested in military technology?  Think about all the things we could be doing with that money instead of killing other human beings.  Think about all the people we could feed, shelter, and educate.  Most of us living in the west take our privilege for granted and don’t realize that we have a privilege to pursue our dreams and ambitions.  Others, like the 3 million people displaced in Swat, have other priorities in their lives before they can even worry about anything else.

And what kind of reaction are these drone attacks going to create from Pakistanis?  How does this benefit Pakistan’s attitudes towards the United States?  Pulse Media has an excellent post which includes Democracy Now’s interview with Imran Khan, a very outspoken activist and critic of both, the Pakistani government and U.S. foreign policy.  Here’s an important excerpt:

AMY GOODMAN: Imran Khan, you were in Washington at the time that US lawmakers voted for funding the expanded war in Afghanistan. The US is planning a massive diplomatic presence in Pakistan. I think President Obama asked something like three-quarters of a billion dollars, $736 million, to build a new US embassy, as well as permanent housing for US officials in Islamabad. What is the effect of this? And what is the effect of the expanded war in Afghanistan on Pakistan?

IMRAN KHAN: Well, there was no terrorism in Pakistan, we had no suicide bombing in Pakistan, ’til Pakistan sent its troops on—under pressure from the US. Musharraf, General Musharraf, capitulated under the pressure and sent Pakistani troops into the tribal area and Waziristan. So it was that that resulted in what was the new phenomenon: the Pakistani Taliban. We had no militant Taliban in Pakistan, until we got in—we were forced into this US war on terror by a military dictator, not by the people of Pakistan. And people never owned this war. People always thought that this is not our war, and quite rightly, because we did not have any terrorism in Pakistan, as subsequently grew.

The more operations we did, the more reaction came. And suddenly, as now, we have thirty Taliban groups. I mean, these groups call themselves Taliban, but basically these are radicalized people, these are extremists. And extremism is growing in Pakistan, the more we are being engulfed in this war, which is based in, basically, Afghanistan. So, as long as the US troops are in Afghanistan, I’m afraid there’s no peace in Pakistan either, because the tribal areas are basically—there’s no border there, so the Pashtuns are split between—on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we have, you know, this movement across the border. And, you know, to send a—think that the Pakistan army is going to stop it—I think Pakistan army itself is going to be stuck in this quagmire, the same as the US in Afghanistan.

Imran Khan makes a crucial point that I always find myself making when I discuss how the current crisis in Pakistan evolved.  Following the attacks of September 11th, George W. Bush gave countries like Pakistan an ultimatum, “you’re either with us or against us.”  In that respect, Pakistan was pigeon-holed into military cooperation with the United States and as a result of fighting Taliban and militant forces in the North West Frontier Province, hostility and antagonism towards the Pakistani government increased.  The Taliban forces have invaded Pakistan, not because this was something rooted in their ideology, but because the Taliban consider the Pakistani government complicit with the war crimes of the United States.

President Obama, who has criticized U.S. foreign policy in other countries, oddly does not enlighten Americans about the current struggles in Paksitan.  He does not seem to worry about the inevitable backlash from the Taliban, militants, or even the civilians who just lost their Loved ones.  If Obama is willing to engage in diplomatic relations with other Muslim countries like Iran and Palestine, then why isn’t the same true for Pakistan and Afghanistan?  The President assured Pakistanis that their country’s sovereignty will not be violated, but the truth of the matter is that the drone strikes are violating their sovereignty.  So what is Obama’s purpose in Pakistan?  Jeremy Scahill reveals some disturbing facts about America’s plans in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

It is clear—and has been for a long time— that the Obama administration is radically expanding the US war in Afghanistan deeply into Pakistan. Whether it is through US military trainers (that’s what they were called in Vietnam too), drone attacks or commando raids inside the country, the US is militarily entrenched in Pakistan. It makes Obama’s comment that “[W]e have no intention of sending US troops into Pakistan” simply unbelievable.

For a sense of how significant US operations are and will continue to be for years and years to come, just look at the US plan to build an almost $1 billion massive US “embassy” in Islamabad, which is reportedly modeled after the imperial city they call a US embassy in Baghdad. As we know very clearly from Iraq, such a complex will result in an immediate surge in the deployment of US soldiers, mercenaries and other contractors.

Are you enjoying your qeema and daal, Mr. President?

10 thoughts on “Senseless Drone Attacks on Pakistan: Obama’s Real Science-Fiction War

  1. Chiara says:

    Another great post!

    Obama is also rather disingenuous about how much contact he has had personally with Pakistan, and why. He acknowledges the Pakistani university friends, but doesn’t want them interviewed, and usually omits that his anthropologist mother either worked there fulltime for 5 years or consulted there substantively for 5 years.

    Musharraf was not only given the “yer either fer us er agin us” ultimatum, he was given the “or we’ll bomb you back to the stone age” one that Afghanistan was given (even though Afghanistan was willing to turn Osama bin Laden over to an international court–where he should have been tried, but then there would be no excuse for a war against a country sitting on a major oil thoroughfare). Musharraf began his book tour saying this in interviews but learned not to (although it is in his book, and substantiated by the accounts of other dissaffected US government officials). He also stopped saying how much money Pakistan was making handing over the “usual suspects” to fill US black sites, and GITMO.

    The Vietnam war analogy is apt in more ways than one, including denial that the US troops were ever in Cambodia (another reason people weren’t supposed to vote for John Kerry who was there and said so). Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran is highly revelatory of the mismanagement and expense in “blood and treasure” of having a major US embassy like the one you described in Iraq for Pakistan.

    Imran Khan is brilliant and courageous, with too small a following (? for tribal/ethnic reasons?)

  2. Thanks Chiara!

    I’ve been conflicted about Obama ever since he took office. There are times when I think he’s good for Muslims in America, but then I hear about these drone attacks in Pakistan, as well as the troop increase in Afghanistan, I don’t know what to think anymore. The worst part is when my fellow Muslims call me an “Obama hater” and “anti-American” when I’m simply exercising my democratic rights! I am allowed to criticize my President when he is wrong; I don’t live in a police state (I hope not, at least).

    In any case, you’re right, Pakistan was also threatened to be bombed back to the “stone age.” I should have included that in the post. You bring up great points about the US denial of troops in Cambodia since that is what we’re seeing here. Tariq Ali draws this analogy many times in his book, “The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.”

    Thanks for your second comment and link. How the Taliban came about is another important topic that needs to be discussed and I was thinking about writing a post on it. I will check out the link soon :)

  3. Chiara says:

    Well I beat you then! LOL I’ve been conflicted about Obama since he began campaigning–mostly because I want to like and believe in him more than I do. I worried all along that he didn’t have the experience to handle the job, and that his meteoric and sometimes suspect rise (the way he got elected in Illinois was more campaign trickery that campaigning) would prevent him from doing as well as a different (Democratic) nominee. It is very hard to say anything critical about him without being accused of racism or sexim (wanting Hillary).

    Obama is first and foremost the President of the US, one with an ambitious agenda, even before he was handed extra problems and one who wants to serve a full 2 terms, so he will be doing exactly what he thinks is best for the US and himself.

    I’m looking forward to the Taliban post. My local Afghani waiter who walked out of university in Afghanistan when the Soviets fired the first shots 30 years ago, into Pakistan, hates them so much he is happy they are out of Afghanistan, even if they are only across the border. Let’s just say his perspective is rather harsh about his fellow Pakistani Muslims. Prince Turbi Al-Faisal’s role is rather suspicious to say the least. You’ll enjoy the article I’m sure.

  4. RCHOUDH says:

    Thanks Chiara for that article! And thanks Jehanzeb for this insightful post! Unfortunately coverage over what the US is doing in Pakistan is not on the agenda for the US MSM. The military even has the audacity to claim that the civilians killed in the funeral march were militants! I’ve read in several places (like Asia Times Online for one) that the US is hoping to break apart Pakistan by making Balochistan independent. I’ve seen some evidence indicating this might be the case (China’s investment in the Gwader Port, the possibility of an Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline running through there). This could be the reason why the US is secretly expanding the war into Pakistan. We have to remember that after the Cold War proxy wars are still taking place between major world powers with America and its Nato allies on one side and China Russia and Iran on the other. They’re all fighting over economic (and politican for the West) control of the Third World’s natural resources, of which the Muslim world is a part. Even though China and Russia are not directly involving their soldiers in these fights, they do exercise influence over some of the countries being fought over (China and Pakistan, Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian states). And just today I read that China is trying to win bids in Iraqi oil contracts which I’m sure the US is not too happy about. Insha’Allah all their plans will soon come to ruin because we are living through the End Times, in which two stages exist, the first stage being one of war and chaos which precedes the advent of the Mahdi and Prophet Isa (AS), followed by the second stage which will take place after their advent. For more information check out this website:

    http://www.awaitedmahdi.com/signs/signs_index.html

  5. Chiara says:

    You’re welcome Rchoudh, and thank you for the link.

    A friend who reads Asiatimes alot and follows economic news closely also thinks it is all about the US, Russia, and China fighting for control of oil and oil passageways.

    My formal and informal study of US history has me rather cynically convinced to always look for the economic motive. Or as one fine young man off to fight in 1991 in Kuwait said “Well, they’re trying to take our oil!”. Indeed.

    I think all the WWII rhetoric of the Bush administration and continuing to a lesser extent through the Obama one, is because it was the last “just war”, where the primary motivation for involvement by the Allies wasn’t economic expansion (although that came as a result), and the US can be justifiably proud of its troops efforts.

    Since then the wars have been less easy to justify Korea, Vietnam (a psychological trauma of loss still not healed), the intermittent “Gulf Wars”, Afghanistan, IRAQ, and now seemingly Pakistan, are all less likely candidates for just or necessary wars.

    Canada is apparently holding firm to a 2011 withdrawal from Afghanistan (there since 2002, and in heavy combat areas), despite Obama’s overtures. Most Canadians are against continued involvement. It is the first time in my lifetime that Canada is at war for a prolonged period (we were in Kuwait) and it is odd, though it doesn’t affect most people directly. Still there are soldiers on leave, recruitment efforts, an increasing emphasis on military medicine, grieving family members of dead soldiers, and family friends being deployed.

    Hopefully there will be more peaceful solutions, than the current level of conflict.

  6. RCHOUDH says:

    @ Chiara

    You’re welcome! You’re right I think most of America’s allies like Canada, the EU etc will wait till Obama’s first term is over to state that they are pulling out. Let’s hope and pray this turns out to be true so the bloodshed can finally stop…

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