Amnesty international has been investigating US drone attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan says that between 400 and 900 civilians have been killed by drone strikes. Amnesty is calling the drone strikes, possible war crimes according to the Geneva Convention, that prohibits targeting civilians. One of the nine attacks they investigated was the case of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi, who was killed with a missile as she worked in her vegetable garden. Amy Truscott, spokeswoman for Amnesty International said:
“It seems impossible to imagine that anyone could have considered Mamana Bibi to have been an insurgent. It’s very much a case of unlawful killing.”
Since President Obama has taken office, he has used the drones for indiscriminate killing in the Waziristan tribal region of Pakistan.
Amnesty also accuses Australia and Pakistan as being complicit in the wholesale slaughter of civilians. Intelligence provided by Australia helps the US target Al Qaeda and Taliban and Pakistan has given it’s tacit approval, albeit with some reservations to the drone strikes. At least until the civilian death toll began to climb.
This month, the UN asked the US to be more transparent about civilian deaths. Obama insists the drone attacks are necessary and that in the long range, they actually save lives.
“But as commander in chief I must weigh these heart-breaking tragedies against the alternatives.”
“So this is a just war, a war waged proportionally in last resort and in self-defense.”
Pakistan’s PM, Nawar Sharif, is in Washington this week and is expected to bring up the subject of drones and the hopes that the US starts being more discriminate in using them. Pakistani politician, Imran Khan, has said that if he ever becomes prime minister, he would order the Air Force to shoot down all drones.
Akbar Ahmed, who has served as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, but now resides in Washington, has strong concerns about Obama’s use of drones. He says that Obama has been using the wrong tactics.
“I think it should have understood the tribal nature of these societies, the fact that they already were in turmoil … and that these were impoverished areas desperate for development.”
“What the drone does it literally antagonises the entire section or clan or tribe, which means for every one bad guy killed, you end up antagonising maybe 10,000, 15,000, and therefore the lines for the suicide bombers are unending.”
Akbar Ahmed thinks the PM, Nawar Sharif will try to convince the president to take a more measured approach, rather than the shotgun tactics that have prevailed to this point. He won’t complain openly, but he will make his case in confidential talks.
“I don’t think he wants to make it very visible, but I am sure that that will come up with president Obama because it is high upon his list of priorities.”
“There have been politicians like Imran Khan who said ‘if ever I became PM, my first act will be to ask the Pakistan air force to shoot down the drones’, and just that act would have enormous implications for international relations.
“So feelings in Pakistan are very, very high around this subject of the drones. As I said, it’s become very symbolic now, something poisonous in the relationship between the US and Pakistan.”
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued scathing reports on Obama’s use of drones in Yeme, Somalia, and Pakistan. Both have been especially harsh in their criticism of the so called, “rescuer attacks”. That’s where the drone attacks a second time after first responders go to the scene to help. The reports have stopped just short of recommending prosecution, but have made it clear that if things remain as they are, it’s their next step.