“TERRORIST? CIA or TALIBAN!!
VICTIMS OF DRONE ATTACKS!
FOUNDATION FOR FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS”
By Dr. Haider Mehdi
This is exactly how the banner read when Pakistani tribal villagers held a rally recently to condemn US drone attacks on their villages in areas along the Afghanistan border. For once, thank God, a segment of the international press was kind enough to publish the photograph of the said protest along with a picture of a Pakistani tribal youth, Sadaullah Wazir, 17, who was sitting in his home’s front yard when the missile fired from a drone struck, mangling his legs so badly that both his legs had to be amputated. Now Sadaullah and other villagers want justice from America for this inhumane brutality and unlawful war.
There have been 109 drone attacks this year, about 90% of them in North Waziristan, where Sadaullah lives. The youth and other tribesmen from the village have started a campaign by staging a protest in Islamabad and are planning to sue the CIA for damages and justice for all victims of this illegal and undeclared ferocious war against the citizens of Pakistan. Detailed accounts of hundreds of casualties such as Sadaullah’s hardly ever make it outside the tribal regions: nameless, faceless, innocent victims continue to be slaughtered. Unfortunately, but most certainly, justice and a fair deal is not what they are going to get from the Americans. This is not how capitalistic democracy works!
The present protest needs to turn into a full-fledged political movement to force the incumbent PPP regime in Islamabad to back out of the so-called “war on terror.” Hundreds of lawsuits should be brought against the Zardari-Gilani administration in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the legality of this war on terror – and Pakistan’s foreign policy discourse should be fundamentally altered to stimulate and initiate a peace process with the Taliban to end this vicious US-Nato war against the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Legal experts, political analysts and government officials in the US hold varied perspectives on the legality of drone attacks: “Philip Alston, the independent UN investigator on extra-judicial killings urged the US to lay out rules and safeguards, publish figures on civilian casualties, and prove they have tried other ways to capture or incapacitate suspects without killing them.” But George Little, the CIA spokesman, claims that drone attacks (as counter-terrorism strategy) are precise, lawful and effective. The Americans refuse to acknowledge the vast level of civilian casualties or the moral inappropriateness of drone warfare against a civilian population. The US political establishment is adamant in its view and is, in fact, accelerating the drone operations.
Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist, in a recent article opined that the Obama administration is poised for cross-border raids in Pakistan: “Senior American military commanders, meaning Gen. David Petraeus…are pushing for raids into Pakistan.” Pepe Escobar, author and political analyst, believes that increased drone attacks are a plot – an advancing script and a prelude to Obama’s re-election strategy: “I love the smell of a burning Talib in the morning. Makes me think of…re-election.”
Escobar wrote in a recent piece: “In a nutshell: expect for 2011 an endless parade of Predators and Reapers firing barrages of missiles…in North Waziristan, Khyber or anywhere else in the tribal areas…So it’s …the CIA that is showering Death from Above over dirt-poor mud-hut villages in a country against which the US is not at war…the hip thing to do in America is ‘counter-terrorism,’ as in drone-saturated air war. Consider the drone war as Washington’s premier stimulus package to Central Asia.”
The vital political-strategic reality that the advocates of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights as well as the Pakistani citizens at large must come to realize and understand is that the so-called “war on terror” and accelerating drone warfare are part and parcel of a concealed and secret war for the US-West’s global strategic long term plans to control gas and other natural resources all the way from Pakistan to the tip of Central Asia. It is another saga in the history of colonialism and the modern-time neo-con neo-imperialist agenda; in prospect is the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-
The fact is that the US-Western capitalistic-political mindset is impenetrable – consequently, in spite of Obama’s repeated public assurances of withdrawing from Afghanistan, nothing of the kind is going to happen. A symbolic reduction in US troop deployment will take place to enhance Obama’s re-election bid. The US is here to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely, and drones will continue to strike in Northern Waziristan with extreme smashing firepower – until at least to the end of the next presidential election in the US. The politics of the American presidential election knows nothing of moral or humanitarian impediments when it comes to targeting and killing foreign nationals.
Unless – a massive mass political movement in Pakistan voices such vehement opposition towards the present dysfunctional, irrational, and counter-productive foreign policy espoused by the incumbent regime in Islamabad that the government transforms foreign policy into one that is more rationalized, logistical and pro-national. Unfortunately, that is an unlikely prospect; the Zardari-Gilani regime is the protégé of the US political establishment—its self-preservation obsession far exceeds the will to serve the larger interests of the Pakistani masses, specifically the victims of drone attacks in Northern Waziristan.
So, given the political ground realities, what should the newly constituted Foundation for Fundamental Rights do? First and foremost is the need for the FFR to organize a massive campaign to legally challenge the present regime in Islamabad in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the constitutional violations of conducting a foreign policy that allows a foreign power to wage an open war against its citizens. The lawyer community all over the country should help transform this local movement from Waziristan to a national political movement against drone warfare. It’s time for the lawyers to infuse a new spirit of nationalist interest in the hitherto backwards and stagnated national political spectrum.
Second, the FFR should have every household in North Waziristan that has had a drone casualty to sue the Pakistani government and the CIA for compensation. The FFR should also go to the International Court of Justice for due compensation. It would be in Pakistan’s national self-interest to challenge the CIA drone warfare in the International Court of Justice, its legality and, as a consequence, its violation of fundamental human rights. This arrogant madness of a few powerful Western nations needs to be confronted legally, politically, in public opinion and the media, and in the arena of the International Court of Justice.
The so-far dormant opposition parties in Pakistan, long on rhetoric and short on action, might consider supporting the victims of drone warfare and take up the mission of the FFR as a point of departure for restoring, sanity, sense, rationality and a political discourse to save the nation from absolute inhumanity and total destruction.
It is wake up time for the nation, or face the music – endless indiscriminate drone attacks.
The ball is in our court. Support the victims, save the nation!!
The fundamental question is: Who are the terrorists?
The writer: a professor, political analyst, published author and conflict-resolution expert. Dr Mehdi is a regular contributor to Opinion Maker.