Boycott the US government

Published: August 3, 2012
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The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

Staking out a firm position on the question of US involvement in Pakistan is the equivalent of finally meeting an online Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf fanatic face to face. No matter how factual and dispassionate you are in presenting your position, the only response will be a fury of counter-accusations. Fall too strongly on the pro-American side and you will be denounced as a Western-educated ‘burger’ who secretly desires to be ruled by an imperialist power; be equally adamant in denouncing drone attacks and prepare to be called a Taliban apologist. This mindless repetition of the Bushian ‘with-us-or-against-us’ mantra is the intellectual equivalent of throwing spitballs in the sandbox.

Since I strongly fall on the anti-US government side, believing that drone warfare is illegal and immoral — and would like to avoid the usual pro-extremist label — let me explain exactly why I am so opposed to these killer robots before coming to the main thrust of the column, which is to ponder how we, as individuals, should react to drone attacks.

The main issue for me is that of civilian casualties, which have been reported as being ludicrously low. The most prominent of those gathering statistics on drone deaths is the New America Foundation, which takes all its numbers from Pakistani newspapers, which, in turn, uncritically report figures given to them by government officials. Unsurprisingly, the government claims almost all dead are militants. Basically, what we have is not a tally of actual civilian deaths but a government wish list that posthumously declares all those killed in drone attacks to be militants.

The Pakistani government’s figures are spurred by its ex post facto desire for a cover-up. The US, however, in an inversion of all morality, has already declared everyone guilty before blasting them to death. According to a report in The New York Times, the Obama Administration simply assumes that all men of military age who are killed by it are militants, unless explicitly proven otherwise. This policy is stunning, both in its disregard for innocent life and in its essentially racist nature: everyone in the tribal areas should be considered a caricature out of a Rudyard Kipling novel.

For those Pakistanis who agree that the US is a wanton aggressor that has no regard for human life, if that life happens to be living in Fata, an obvious question poses itself. What can we do to register our protest and disapproval with what is happening rather than be complicit in the killings?

Here’s one possible solution. For those of us who come from the elite, there is almost no chance that we remain untouched by US government money. From working on projects funded by the USAID to participating in seminars arranged by US consulates, we gladly accept American dollars even if we believe that they are waging a war that flouts all international laws.

Eliminating all US government money from our lives will never stop drone attacks but it will remove that taint of hypocrisy that lingers over us. And the small personal sacrifice that it requires should not be too burdensome. Instead of working for an organisation that calls itself an NGO but tailors all its programmes to attract the glut of US aid that is pouring in, we can earn a lower salary from someone who is truly independent. And is skipping speeches by the usual suspects at some US-arranged seminar or the other really much of a sacrifice to ask for?

The details we now have of the drone war show that the US has as little concern for civilian life as the assortment of militant groups. Yet, none of us would think of working for the Jamaatud Dawaa’s charity offshoot. For the Americans, for some reason, we are willing to sell our humanity.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Faheem Mujahid
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:00PM

    A very well written and thought provoking article

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  • Falcon
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:36PM

    So even though you started out bashing PTI supporters, you ended up agreeing with them. Denial phase I guess? ;)

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  • faraz
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:43PM

    The real question is regarding the role of our state. Army has imposed a media blackout in FATA. If journalists can’t be permitted in those areas, then army should produce official figures of civilian and militant death after every drone strike. Number of casualties, their names, addresses etc. should be documented and publicly distributed to remove the ambiguity regarding drones.

    And what a superficial analysis that is restricted to few dozen twitter personalities.

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  • Prasad Babu
    Aug 3, 2012 - 10:45PM

    Here is an idea. Stop supporting and tolerating terrorists. And then demand the US to stop drone attacks. I guess that would too simple to accept.

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  • observer
    Aug 3, 2012 - 10:48PM

    Yet, none of us would think of working for the Jamaatud Dawaa’s charity offshoot. For the Americans, for some reason, we are willing to sell our humanity

    And with Water turning into fuel now who needs the US or Saudis for that matter.

    Let us have JuDistan, Here and now

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  • Altaf Hussain, Mumbai
    Aug 3, 2012 - 11:27PM

    The official line of CIA is that any able bodied male in the conflict zone is a combatant. Sounds absurd but true. Pakistan has no choice but to toe the American line. You should be prepared to pay some small price for the dollars that are pouring in. I saw a figure of $1.18 billion this morning somewhere, so please stop whining and avoid being in the conflict zone if you are an able bodied male above the age of fourteen.

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  • Concerned
    Aug 4, 2012 - 1:59AM

    @Prasad Babu:
    You sir, obviously do not comprehend the extremely complicated politics of the Afghan-Pakistan border region. Some light reading, perhaps Anatol Lieven’s ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’ and related books will do well for a deeper and more nuanced appreciation of the quandary this country faces.

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  • Fasih
    Aug 4, 2012 - 3:13AM

    @Altaf Hussain, Mumbai: ‘I saw a figure of $1.18 billion this morning somewhere’. Glad to know Indians are so rigorous in their fact-checking when it comes to their xenophobic, entirely unsubstantiated attacks on Pakistan. ‘Reading something somewhere’ definitely gives you the factual license to assume that drone attacks are justified.

    That amount was Reimbursements (Not aid) for costs incurred by Pakistan in the War on Terror, dufus. The US owed us that money. Now go troll some news website on your side of the border please.

    Oh, and how’s that national grid doing? Guessing Bharatmata’s smelling even sweeter than ever these days, what with the hyperactive pores and all. ;)

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  • Iron hand
    Aug 4, 2012 - 4:18AM

    Anyone who follows the links in the article can clearly see that the author misrepresents how the US makes decisions on drone strikes. Even the Tribune article directly linked to this article confirms that men of military age who are killed because they are close enough to the actual target – a known militant scrutinized for terrorist ties – are also considered to be militants, because why else would they be in such close proximity to a terrorist? To claim that all military age men in FATA are targeted as militants is utterly false and libelous. Shame on your shoddy reporting and misleading conclusions.

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  • Nagpuri
    Aug 4, 2012 - 4:46AM

    Drones illegal and immoral? Compared,to,what? sending jihadis to Afghanistan and India? Who target civilianss and the heir deaths are not collateral. How about killings of Shia other minorities?

    Is there a moral Equivalancy between Jud, who targets civilians ans USA who target militants? Intentions matter. Doctor or drivers and murders can kill people but we dont send doctor to jail and no moral equivalency. you are no better than IK with such intellectual dishonesty.m please join PTi.

    Please come off high horse of making ‘sacrifice’.

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  • Nagpuri
    Aug 4, 2012 - 4:48AM

    Drones illegal and immoral? Compared to,what? sending jihadis to Afghanistan and India? Who target civilianss and their deaths are not collateral. How about killings of Shia other minorities? Are you going to boycott Pak army and it’s institutions?

    Is there a moral Equivalancy between Jud, who targets civilians and USA who target militants? Intentions matter. Doctor or drivers and murders can kill people but we dont send doctor to jail and no moral equivalency. you are no better than IK with such intellectual dishonesty.m please join PTi.

    Please come off high horse of making ‘sacrifice’.

    Recommend

  • Syed Harris
    Aug 4, 2012 - 4:51AM

    The problem is also with the Taliban fighters. They choose to hide in populated areas among civilians. If they make their bases then I am sure that a drone strike will kill only militants. They choose to use civilians as a shield, which then results in collateral damage.

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  • Cautious
    Aug 4, 2012 - 4:57AM

    I wonder why the author doesn’t visit the tribal territories and determine first hand whether the victims of drone attacks are militants or “innocents” as he is suggesting?

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  • Concerned
    Aug 4, 2012 - 5:10AM

    @Altaf Hussain, Mumbai:
    It is, I imagine, quite simple for able-bodied men who have seen their villages and homes destroyed by US drones just move out and find refuge elsewhere? Ever heard of the ‘IDPs’ of Pakistan, or perhaps the mass influx of tribal people to Karachi and other cities?
    Pakistan’s precarious situation forces us to toe the American line – but surely, our media must try and investigate what is going on in this remote, neglected frontier of Pakistan. Surely not everyone unfortunate enough to have been born and raised in FATA presently is a terrorist? Surely, they’re also human beings with real feelings?

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  • Khattak
    Aug 4, 2012 - 6:58AM

    What about PAF dropping 5000 bombs on Pashtuns areas till March 2010 using Google Maps? Does any Pakistani Journalist have the conscious to write about the atrocities commited to Pashtuns on daily basis. Why are we oppsing & using drones as cash cows? Demand stoping drones attcack & get a billion a half evey year. How smart it is that Jinah Institute is using the American Fondation to save terrorists. Barvo Paksitan, some existance & some life.

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  • Hemant
    Aug 4, 2012 - 8:49AM

    Begin by boycotting
    Coke , Pepsi and Macdonalds .
    Nike ,Levi’s .
    IBM , Apple , Microsoft , Google .
    Easier said then done .
    But possible given strength of character . We have the model of Mahata Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru who inspite of an English education and western upbringing boycotted all foreign goods once they decided that boycott of English goods would hurt the Imperial masters .
    It of course also high lighted their sprit of sacrifice .

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  • wonderer
    Aug 4, 2012 - 8:50AM

    This article is a pointless exercise. Pakistan must first accept all the blame for providing to the US a perfect laboratory for testing and perfecting its drone technology.

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  • Disaster Stopped
    Aug 4, 2012 - 2:04PM

    Thisis great. Yes stop using Microsoft, Apple OSX or Linux (which s by and large programmed by Anericans), Intel, AMD, NVidia and ARM… Then we will have no computers and REALLY be back in the stone ages.

    Idealistic article without any consideration of reality: 75 years ago there was much less globalization and the common British Indian had a pretty pathetic life. So he was able and willing to trade British textiles for handwoven ones, and make his own salt. Besides these two items which are by and large manufactured locally anyway there’s not much else we really can substitute or which really will even hurt the Americans.

    Oh and if we do substitute American products, what if they substitute our textiles for those from Bangladesh? You will have caused a balance of payments crisis and local economic crisis just for the sake of ‘registering a complaint’.

    So please save us from this type of posturing. Even if the great Mahatma were alive today, he’d say these tactics wouldn’t work today and would cause more damage to countries that need their exports… It won’t work in India, China (against the US) or in the US (against China).

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  • Sheikh A Bukhara
    Aug 4, 2012 - 5:44PM

    Most Internet porn comes from America too. Shouldn’t we boycott that as well? Good luck. It is near impossible to get adult Pakistani males to stop watching that. My sense is that given a clear choice, they’d prefer porn over stopping drones.

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  • Cynical
    Aug 4, 2012 - 6:24PM

    Rhetorical gymnastics at best. Think of more pragmatic ways and means, if you must protest against the US.

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  • Ashif
    Aug 4, 2012 - 8:56PM

    There isn’t going to be a good solution to Pakistan’s problems until it roots out the Haqqanis, the Hafeez Saeeds, the Lakhvis and their ilk. Recommend

  • Aug 5, 2012 - 7:22PM

    Something important is missing here: testimony from Fata residents that U.S. drones are wantonly striking civilians.

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  • KJ
    Aug 6, 2012 - 12:09AM

    One word! Naive…. The author has not idea about economics

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  • Aug 17, 2012 - 9:38PM

    Brilliant!! Cant be written better!

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