Drones are in effect terrorist tools that impose terror on the people that they are fired against, creating more enemies for the United States with every innocent person that is killed, Leah Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace, told RT.
RT: You traveled to Pakistan and met victims of drone strikes and their relatives. What can you tell us about what you've seen and heard?
Leah Bolger: Yes, that was about a year ago. I went with the delegation sponsored by code Pink. And we were hosted by a Pakistani organization called the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. And a lawyer, Shizad Ahkbar, who was representing US victims of US combat drones. Their family members have been killed; homes have been destroyed. So yes, we've met with some victims, we've met with a man, a journalist, who is taking pictures and found evidence. And it was heartbreaking to hear these stories of people who have not even heard about the US, they didn't know why these missiles were coming down and attacking them and following them with the drones. It was really heartbreaking to hear the stories of children who are afraid to go to school; of people who have committed suicide because of the mental pressure of having these drones over their head 24 hours a day. We heard many powerful stories.
RT: According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch on the US drone program, the strikes cause many more civilian casualties than terrorist attacks. Is it worth continuing this program?
LB: No, absolutely not. How would you define who is a dangerous terrorist and what is terrorism? In my mind, having missiles come from out of the skies and out of nowhere and attacking families, trying to go about their daily business is a form of terrorism. To say that somebody walking around with a gun is a terrorist and that we should take them out – I think that’s absurd. I question that we are taking bad guys with these drones. The only way to know if they are bad or good is to take them before law and present evidence against them. And we've done none of that.
RT: The US has launched about 80 targeted killing operations in Yemen since 2009. Why can't America's sophisticated military systems properly differentiate innocent civilians from terrorists?
LB: Like I said drones are terrorist tools that impose terror on the people that they are fired against. I don’t know if you can determine that somebody is a terrorist without presenting evidence against them. That’s what Geneva Convention calls for. They also call for if you think that somebody is guilty of some type of crime, it says that you must present evidence against that person, evidence toward the crime. And you are supposed to have positive identification if you are taking legal prosecution towards a person; you are supposed to take them prisoner as a first resort and not killing them first. These drone strikes violate many points of the Geneva Convention, they violate the sovereignty of the foreign countries that we are attacking and they are the violation of the UN Charter. No matter whether we've killed 100 percent of the intended targets, those intended targets are not necessarily guilty of anything until proven so in a court.
RT: A former State Department official in Yemen says that every US drone killing of an Al-Qaeda operative there creates 40 to 60 new enemies of America. Why hasn't Washington's stance on drones been affected by this?
LB: Absolutely, the drone attacks are not only not effective but actually counter-effective because we are creating more enemies with every innocent person that we kill. This is verifiable by talking to the Pashtun people. One of the main values in Pashtun culture is revenge. And they will make revenge as best they can. I don’t know if this country, this rule will be around long enough to forget the damage that we've done even if we've stopped immediately. So we are going to remember for generations the harm we've caused and the innocent people who've been killed. I think that argument is going to the Congress, we had actual military officials. High military officials say that drone program is counterproductive and it is creating more enemies. This is definitely an argument that should resonate with not only Congress but the American people. And we should all be speaking them against them.
RT: Washington has always insisted that its foreign drone policy is fully legitimate, but Human Rights Watch states that the number of strikes and civilian deaths are unacceptable even by the 'law of war'. What can be done by the international community to put an end to the atrocities?
LB: Absolutely, and I would ask the world community to speak up about this in the UN, in the International Criminal Court and in all kinds of public forms because the United States is guilty of war crimes and we should not be let off the hook because we are powerful nation. We should be held to the standards that would the rest of the world held to. And you know that the fact is that the US hasn't even signed up to the ICC. And just because we have drones and we haven’t signed on to specific ban against drones, we are violating the international law with every drone strike that violates the southern borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan or Yemen and these are crimes against humanity. And absolutely I wish the world would speak up and challenge this.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.