In a remark to the pop group the Jonas Brothers, President Barack Obama told the young men to stay away from his daughters, lest he unleash “Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”
That seemingly insignificant and arguably comedic comment, reveals the indifference of the White House to the invisible aspect of these deadly weapons and the cavalier attitude of the current occupant to the disturbing fact of their fatal power.
In his new book, The Thistle and the Drone, renowned author, diplomat, and scholar Akbar Ahmed reveals a largely unreported and misunderstood, although critical aspect of the “War on Terror": the creation of enemies and the further marginalization of Middle Eastern tribal societies.
Of all the insights in Ahmed's masterful study of this worrisome world issue, perhaps the most troubling is the highlighting of the callousness of the United States to the devastating effects of the drone war being waged in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, North Africa, etc. The following narrative is illustrative:
A U.S. drone operator in New Mexico revealed the extent to which individuals across the world can be observed in their most private moments. ‘We watch people for months,’ he said. ‘We see them playing with their dogs or doing their laundry. We know their patterns like we know our neighbors’ patterns. We even go to their funerals.
The sound of drones buzzing above the bodies of those being laid to rest in tribal funerals is commonplace. So are the so-called “signature strikes” that send missiles into the procession in case their are any “terrorists” attending the service.
Often, the story is reported, surviving relatives of those killed by the drone assaults are denied the opportunity to bury their dead and perform the ancient rites associated with placing a body in its final resting place. One man severely injured in a drone attack reported that "people are reluctant to go to the funerals of people who have been killed in drone strikes because they are afraid of being targeted.”
On page 92 of a report entitled "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan," coauthored by the law schools of Stanford and New York Universities, the story is told of several Pakistanis who were intentionally targeted by Hellfire missiles fired at funerals. The grief experienced and related by these men is evident, heart-wrenching, and demoralizing.
One man who lost several relatives in a drone strike tells how the dead from that strike were buried: “They held a funeral for everybody, in the same location, one by one. Their bodies were scattered into tiny pieces. They … couldn’t be identified,” said Massod Afwan.
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