U.S. drone strikes are creating cadres of anti-American fighters, furious over the killing and wounding of thousands of civilians. Far from keeping drone attacks “on a very tight leash,” as President Obama has claimed, they have generated widespread terror across Muslim populations in the attack regions, disrupting civilian lives and literally driving people mad.
According to an article in the UK Guardian, Zamir Akram, Pakistani ambassador to the UN, charged that more than 1,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes. The use of drones, he said, “leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.” Other estimates put the Pakistan death toll from drone attacks much higher---between 2,000 and 3,500 killed.
Author Gregory Johnsen told McClatchy News Service that the drones attacks in Yemen are “exacerbating and expanding” resistance. “We have seen AQAP (al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula) expanding from 200-300 fighters in 2009, when the U.S. bombing campaign began, to more than 1,000 fighters today.” Johnsen is author of The Last Refuge, a new book on Yemen and al-Qaeda.
And retired Marine General James Cartwright told The Nation magazine the drones cause anger, bitterness and resentment among Muslim populations, and predicted their use will cause “blowback” attacks against America.
Yet both President Obama and his new CIA Director John Brennan have claimed the drone attacks are not indiscriminate assassination efforts but carefully selected strikes. Obama claimed the program is “kept on a very tight leash” and Brennan said it has “rigorous standards and process of review.”
The Administration has also claimed the human targets are only against “specific senior operational leaders of al-Qaeda and associated forces,” who are plotting “imminent” violent attacks against USA, McClatchey News Service reported.
However, McClatchey’s Jonathan Landay writes, sifting through U.S. intelligence reports shows
The Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Clinic), which has made an intensive study of the drone controversy, finds that drones have not only been launched against specific suspected terrorists----they have also been fired at first responders.
The crisis has become so dire in Pakistan that those wounded by the drone attacks often lie unaided because first responders are fearful they will become targets of a follow-up strike. It seems incredible that CIA officials launching the drone strikes would go after first responders----medics, fire fighters, etc.----but there are numerous reports of this.
Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on the issue told a Geneva conference that the CIA strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere
According to the Stanford clinic,
Still another interviewee who lost both legs in a drone attack told Stanford,
Akhunzada Chitan, a parliamentarian who travels to his family home in Waziristan, said people there
Distress in Pakistan is so widespread that the U.S. has become more hated there than India, polls indicate.
(Sherwood Ross formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News and several major wire services. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)