Drone strikes in Pakistan have killed 1,000 civilians, activists say, while the US maintains they only target terrorists. Victims of drone warfare and their families live in constant fear of another strike, and say they are “angry and want revenge.”
A review of classified US intelligence records has revealed that
the CIA could not confirm the identity of about one-quarter of
those killed by drone strikes in Pakistan during a period
spanning 2010 and 2011. In a review of 14 months of classified
records, 26 out of 114 attacks designate fatalities as “other
militants,” and in four other attacks those killed are
described as “foreign fighters.”
The CIA is reluctant to reveal information on its drone program, Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism told RT.
“With so many civilians reported killed, and yet the CIA reporting that it’s killed no more than 50 or 60 civilians I think there is need for an open, not only an open inquiry, but also for the CIA to share the information it has on who it believes it’s killed in places like Pakistan. President Obama’s speech the other week did seem to promise more openness but unfortunately we’re not seeing signs of that just yet,” Woods said.
In his post-election address to parliament, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for an end to US drone attacks in the country’s northern tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
"This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed," Sharif said to enthusiastic applause. "We do respect others' sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty."
“Most of the strikes in Pakistan these days are really not related to Al-Qaeda or those terrorist activities but really to the war across the border in Afghanistan. The drone war has changed quite significantly over the ten years or so it’s been running. We see the US talking about using drones in Syria for example; we have had calls from Iraq and Rwanda recently for the US to use drones there. So there’s a concern among some that the US wants now to use these drones as an easy plank in their view of foreign policy,” Woods explained.
Residents of Pakistan say they are living “in constant fear of
another strike.” Amin Ullah was on his way to work at a mine
near his village when a drone struck the area. He lost his leg in
the attack, and three other miners were killed. "The Americans
should be able to tell an ordinary person from a Taliban leader.
They should know who they're killing. What did we do to deserve
this?" Ullah told RT.
“We are simple villagers who are stuck in a war that we didn’t ask for. It’s a hopeless feeling. Death is above our heads all the time,” he added.
Another victim of the drone attack, Nek Bahadar, lost part of his hearing and nearly his foot: “The drone’s shockwave was so intense that it threw us outside far from the place where we were sleeping. After several minutes there was another strike and it killed many more people.”
“Of course this has made me hate the Americans. We are angry and want revenge. They’ve destroyed our lives. My parents, my wife my children – we all see America our worst enemy now,” Bahadar said.
Pakistani human rights lawyer Shahzad Mirza Akbar has sued both the US and Pakistan on behalf of civilian victims in Waziristan, a mountainous region in northwestern Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.
“I simply call it a concentration camp, that you've built a wall of military and militants, and behind this wall you are keeping more than 800,000 people who are not allowed to come out and no one from the rest of the country is allowed to go in. And that is kind of laboratory that US is using to use test its drone program,” Akbar told RT’s Lucy Kafanov.
Evidence of drone strikes is difficult to gather; fragments of
the attacks were collected by a local journalist Noor Behram, who
spent years documenting the civilian toll of drones, especially
“Whenever my 3-year-old daughter hears the plane she runs inside and won’t sleep that night. The children here have been traumatized by the drones. The sound of a door banging shut is enough to terrify them,” Behram said.
There are fears that the US campaign to eliminate terrorists could end up creating more. “By carrying out drone strikes, killing innocent people who are not part of the conflict, you are just widening the conflict. You are giving the reason to people who were not part of the conflict here to become part of the conflict,” Akbar explained.
Breakthrough advances in unmanned aircraft technology have also sparked concerns at the UN. The UN’s rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns, is calling for a worldwide ban on "killer robots" that could attack targets autonomously, without a human having to pull the trigger.
According to the report, the US, Japan, South Korea and Israel have developed various types of fully- or semi-autonomous weapons.
“It’s important to say there’s no particular day we’ll be able to say, now we have fully autonomous robots. But there are already very high levels of autonomy available, and full autonomy may be available within a few years. It’s important to emphasize the distinction between drones and lethal autonomous robots (LARs). With drones you have a human in the loop with somebody sitting behind the computer and taking the decision to pull the trigger. With robots there’s no human being in the loop, it’s a computer that takes a decision,” Heyns explained.