Those things the Americans murder us Pakistanis with

Published: November 25, 2013
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The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and studied law at Lincoln’s Inn and the London School of Economics. He tweets @AsadRahim

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and studied law at Lincoln’s Inn and the London School of Economics. He tweets @AsadRahim

Try, try and try again, there’s no winning with Maulana Fazlur Rehman. As Imran Khan’s men go on the march, growing angrier over drones — and ever hazier on terror — the JUI has booed and hissed and heckled the Tehreek every step of the way. And when DJ Butt’s inflatable concert made it to Peshawar, Fazl Group did much to puncture it in parts. Since both parties are in embarrassing agreement over substance: supply routes (block them) and drone strikes (end them), the JUI fought over style.

As the hip face of the Jamaat, Messr Jan Achakzai was brought out to slam the hip face of the PTI, arguing they had people play music when they should have been mourning. The JUI’s rallies are both sharp and visible — and that’s when they’re in agreement with Mr Khan. With no such hang-ups, the PML-N’s already cursing K-P for ruining relations with other countries.

As for the PTI, it began this latest campaign for the wrongest reasons: appeasing militants than saving civilians.

But forget for a second the populist parties, the politics they play, and the messes they make. Cut away the muck, and we’re left with the issue at hand.

Drones. The good, the bad, and the stuff Ahmed Rashid sahib writes books about. In our heart of hearts, we know exactly what these machines mean. But even in this tiny space, consider the cons and the cons.

First, what the law says. We’ve heard pretty words like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘territorial integrity’ till our ears bleed — and we know for a fact no one cares about either. Partly because no one has a legal foot to stand on, least of all the US.

As one brilliant case study by Notre Dame Law School’s Mary Ellen O’Connell reads, “The so-called ‘global war on terror’ is not an armed conflict. Members of the CIA are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing — even in an armed conflict — is a crime.” Drone attacks aren’t close to what the International Court of Justice considers ‘self-defence’, nor is Pakistan in ‘armed conflict’ with the US. Were Pakistan even to make the most express request for assistance, such attacks would bulldoze all humanitarian laws to do with distinction, necessity, proportionality and humanity, pretty much as they’re doing now.

And though we’re told he picks his ‘kill list’ on Tuesdays, US President Obama isn’t jaded enough to resist joking about chasing boy bands with Predator drones. But his Peace Prize-winning contempt for Pakistani lives isn’t as bad as our complicity in ending them. Each time hellfire rains from the skies, the state sighs, mispronounces ‘sovereignty’, and goes home … to pick targets later.

Now that we know what the law says, and just how badly the US and Pakistani regimes spit on each word, it’s best to appreciate the good parts. Like how wonderfully accurate these drones are, as a parade of reptiles in Washington tell anyone who listens to just how few kids they kill.

But it was David Kilcullen, a senior adviser to General Petraeus, who infamously admitted in 2009, “Since 2006, we’ve killed 14 senior al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we’ve killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area.” That would make it 50 Pakistanis per Salafi fanatic. This, while the Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts the number of our dead children up to 200.

Accurate these drones aren’t. And forget the ‘double-taps’ (killing rescuers) and ‘bug-splats’ (dead civilians) and other frat party lingo the strikers use to murder Pakistanis with. Studies including Professor O’Connell’s show us how these pilots work in videogame conditions, double-check with unreliable ground agents, and fire via joystick.

To recap: the US fires Hellfire missiles into Pakistan without it having asked, the two aren’t in a state of war, there’s no law in the galaxy that justifies murder of this kind, the pilots aren’t accurate, the pilots kill children, and the government is complicit. So where’s the good in all this?

Counter-terror, say the strikes’ local fan-boys (gentlemen who unironically play a lot of video games) —these Predators take out the bad guys we’re all terrified of. The argument goes that the state is surrendering, the army is stretched thin, and the political parties are giving in … or giving up. Drones are the only defence, and all those other issues — dead sovereignty and dead civilians — are the price we pay.

But having sunk so deep into what Dick Cheney called the Dark Side, that lawless place where one becomes the animal he hunts, we’re still the hunted. Drone attacks aren’t lessening terror. Some aren’t even meant to: witness Leon Panetta slam missiles into civilians hours after Raymond Davis’s release.

As Ali Ahmed wrote sometime ago in this newspaper, the militant problem is, “decentralised. Separate chapters are independent in their actions, so it isn’t clear how striking at specific leaders would, or does, hamper their operational capabilities. Nor does it scare them. Or deter. After each killing, as a rule, a more demented guy takes over, with a more aggressive, vile agenda. No drone strike I can think of has actually resulted in wrestling back territory. In fact, North Waziristan (245 drone strikes), the most droned place on earth outside Afghanistan, remains the strongest bastion. Drones … haven’t pushed the fight an inch closer to the end. In fact, what they are is the foremost tool for prolonging it.”

It’s time we realise as much. UAV missiles need to be foregone for a much harder, much longer haul: making Fata part of this country again, building up our law enforcement to tackle terror before the army has to, judicial reform that lowers our acquittal rates and police reform that strengthens our evidence collection. But this narrative needs winning too; political parties require raging over terrorist killers as much as they do over drone deaths.

And before all else, Pakistani lives must be held sacred, equally uninfringeable by Predator drones or suicide bombers. That we’ve reduced it to one-or-the-other shows just how fragmented we’ve become today.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (38)

  • Boris
    Nov 25, 2013 - 11:30PM

    Finally, I needed to be saidRecommend

  • alamgir
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:13AM

    Judge,jury and executionar,all in one.

    Recommend

  • Citizen
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:22AM

    So Mr Author, you have said what scores other are also saying, but where do you say we start? Who cleans up FATA? What actions do we take?

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  • Dr Dang
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:27AM

    @ Author : You are good. Try your hand at Fiction writing.

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  • MSS
    Nov 26, 2013 - 12:54AM

    Well author, keep hammering. One day they will understand.

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  • Not much of an analysis
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:15AM

    Asad usually you write very well, but for a lawyer this was a weak case that you presented.

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  • farhan
    Nov 26, 2013 - 1:31AM

    The bizzare thing is that everytime someone from the Militant side tries to talk peace,he gets ‘droned out’, while before for months or years they operate with invincibility.
    Hard to explain the above.

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  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:33AM

    Come on ET – what I had said in my comments is exactly what your own ‘Drone ’em all’ piece says! So why are you not publishing my comment?

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  • Kolsat
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:45AM

    The writer shows his ignorance when he writes that drones kill civilians more than terrorists. It happens because terrorists hide among civilians under the imprimatur of Pakistani authorities as Osama did. This is the price Pakistan pays for supporting militants at home while telling the world that Pakistan is waging a war on terror. The latter is for US so as to get bucket loads of dollars in aid. When the government plays a two timing game the result is loss of innocent lives.

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  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:58AM

    One of the best articles printed by ET. It is saying it just the way it is. Keep up the good work ET..

    Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Nov 26, 2013 - 4:23AM

    @alamgir:
    You of course are referring to the TTP, with the blood of literally tens on thousands of Pakistanis on their collective hands???

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  • Go Zardari Go!!
    Nov 26, 2013 - 6:08AM

    The author has correctly pointed the crux of the matter. Are drone strikes effective? While drones have killed numerous leaders of the TTP the question to ask is have terror attacks in Pakistan decreased? Listening to these politicians it seems drones are the greatest gift ever bestowed on Pakistan. Their ridiculous arguments like why there were Afghans in Hangu only makes them look like sold out fools. Terrorism is an internal matter of Pakistan and it has to be solved by keeping our interests supreme not with drones who only keep their interests at heart. However stupid people think it is, PTI is the only party that actually took a step that actually spells out repercussions if drones continue. If the other parties can stop giving this issue lip service and actually take concrete steps towards greater independence from western control than perhaps we can prosper. Until then keep listening to these bleeding heart politicians spew garbage.

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  • R.
    Nov 26, 2013 - 7:19AM

    articulately said, as always. but the headline seems like it was not the authors. cmon oped desk, the headlines need not be so sensationalist. people will still read the articles.

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  • Feroz
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:06AM

    Poorly crafted and drafted article that skirts all the main issues, the only logic visible being one of convenience.

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  • anmol
    Nov 26, 2013 - 2:34PM

    Nice article! !

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  • John the Baptist
    Nov 26, 2013 - 3:46PM

    Another “Oh, I can write wonderful poetry and have great command of English–I am the new Keats and pat myself on the back everyday for that” article.

    It really made me cry, not because of the power of your words, but because of the deeply troubling ego that propels you to write the obvious with not an iota of what needs to be done. All you smug “The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and studied law at Lincoln’s Inn and the London School of Economics. He tweets @AsadRahim”, self aggrandizing types have joined the intellectual incest club called ET to throw out periodic balderdash and piffle at the hapless Pakistani people, in between your Coke Studio sessions and cheap Cava parties. There are million of us who have gone to better schools, work better jobs, live a better life than you but who have still got their intellectual tethers attached to the land that defines them, no matter where they go. And they do propose solutions, not revenge!

    I used to think once the English press will take hold, it will provide a platform for diverse views–like in the rest of the West–but you have turned these forums into well paid slavery ships and cesspools of inbred thoughts. I am confounded by the breathless stupidity and rank mediocracy of the English press in Pakistan, of which ET is perhaps the most noxious example. There is something in the earth or air in our land that makes even the most beautiful rose start to rot as soon as it starts to blossom.

    If you have any sense of balance, or you have read the Op Ed by your own editor, His Excellency, Kamal Siddiqi, you should publish comments that negate your $-paid point of view, at least for the sake of debate–no one is asking you to give up all expense paid junkets to NYC, where your mother ship, laden with “We Will Never Forget” posters of hate, resides!!!

    At the heart of the demise of our nation, is dark, deep and misplaced hatred and urge for revenge against the wrong, poor people whose leaders willing provide a “turkey shoot” to their money lenders–the revenge brigade dare not touch the long robes with rosary beads because they know if the oil stops, the entire “modern” civilization that has been constructed over the past centuries, will not survive ONE winter! It gets very cold in Chicago and Boston and New York and St. Paul and …….

    Publish this, Jinnah’s Alma Mater!

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  • alp
    Nov 26, 2013 - 4:09PM

    Drones alone cannot stop terror. Pak Army will have to stop good Taliban bad Taliban game. They will have to carry out a Sri Lanka type operation to rid the country of the terrorists. The author ignore the beginning of the terror story. Why has it come to the drones?

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  • J T
    Nov 26, 2013 - 5:28PM

    “‘Double-tap‘ refers to is a shooting technique where two well-aimed shots are fired at the same target with very little time in between shots.” Don’t know if the author is just ignorant or is being ingenuous.

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  • TT
    Nov 26, 2013 - 5:42PM

    @John the Baptist
    This article is against drones. You didn’t read the op-ed beyond the blurb, and therefore fell victim to everything you complained about.Recommend

  • Bagh
    Nov 26, 2013 - 6:09PM

    @John the Baptist
    St Stephens College Delhi isn’t a better school than LSE.
    Also All four op-eds today are for the drones, by your logic, $ paid. Does that mean this poor guy was paid in PKR for doing the right thing and going against them?
    @Author thank you for telling it like it is.

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  • J T
    Nov 26, 2013 - 6:20PM

    Correction: It should have been “disingenuous” instead of “ingenuous” in the above post. Thanks ET.

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  • Salman Ahmed
    Nov 26, 2013 - 6:21PM

    Superbly written piece…. well done.

    Leadership is all about pushing ahead for the greater good even though the majority may not currently understand what you are saying or doing.

    Recommend

  • Open NATO supply
    Nov 26, 2013 - 6:36PM

    @John the Baptist
    St Stephens Delhi isn’t a better school than the LSE. But I agree that you must have a better life than the author. Ranting in the comments section about how your life is better than the writer’s is usually the first step.

    Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani
    Nov 26, 2013 - 7:31PM

    “Drones … haven’t pushed the fight an inch closer to the end. In fact, what they are is the foremost tool for prolonging it.”. Well, even fighting the terrorists on the ground will prolong it. So, according to the author, we withdraw our army from FATA and hand it over to the militants, who will then demand the whole of Pakistan for themselves.

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  • csmann
    Nov 26, 2013 - 7:47PM

    What about those things that TTP murders Pakistanis with.Oh well!! they are brothers.And our history is filled with brothers killing brothers etc.!!

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  • John the Baptist
    Nov 26, 2013 - 7:56PM

    @Open NATO supply:

    Yeah, as if you are selling moog phalli to earn a living in New York or is it Chicago?

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  • mind control
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:17PM

    Those things the Americans murder us Pakistanis with

    Aren’t the Americans killing Pakistanis with the TTP too?

    Isn’t TTP a creation of CIA/ RAW/ Mossad for destabilising(??!!) Pakistan?

    And the TTP has better reach and kill ratio too.

    First, what the law says. We’ve heard pretty words like ‘sovereignty’ and ‘territorial integrity’ till our ears bleed — and we know for a fact no one cares about either. Partly because no one has a legal foot to stand on, least of all the US.

    Psst.. Let me tell you a secret. All these man made laws were created in the 19th and 20th century by States the relied on State Actors. Since then some States have perfected the use of non-State actors. Surely the victims are not going to wait around twiddling their thumbs till the laws are amended.

    “Since 2006, we’ve killed 14 senior al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we’ve killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area.”

    Err… Ummm..

    Are Nek Muhammad, the two Mehsuuds, Ilyas Kashmiri, Qari Husaain etc etc counted amongst the ‘Pakistani civilians’ killed?
    Moreover, ‘Leaders’ implies the presence of followers too. Is there some kind of embargo on follower elimination or what?

    And before all else, Pakistani lives must be held sacred, equally uninfringeable by Predator drones or suicide bombers. That we’ve reduced it to one-or-the-other shows just how fragmented we’ve become today.

    Cancer Kills Healthy Cells.

    Chemotherapy Kills Cancer AND Healthy cells.

    It has to be one or the other.

    I choose Chemotherapy.

    How about you.? Or may be I can guess.

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  • Stranger
    Nov 26, 2013 - 8:18PM

    Declare the DRONE as the new national bird of Pak.

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  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 26, 2013 - 9:28PM

    @Kolsat:
    Dear Kolsat,
    Twelve years ago 4 buildings were damaged in the US, and not by the Taliban. However, the US/NATO combo, fully supported by Pakistan, invaded Afghanistan, overthrew the Taliban Government, and pushed the Taliban over the border into Pakistan. As they consider themselves the legitimate Government of Afghanistan the Taliban have subsequently fought back with a view to reclaiming what they consider is rightfully theirs.. Whatever the Taliban are you had better get used to them. They belong to the 50 million plus Pashtun group, are really quite miffed with Pakistan, and they will be around for a long time. This is my third attempt to explain, but with modifications. I can only hope ET will print it

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  • Taimoor
    Nov 26, 2013 - 11:39PM

    @J T:
    No you are misinformed, its when rescuers come in and a second missile is fired to kill them.

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  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 27, 2013 - 1:22AM

    @Taimoor:
    Dear Taimoor,
    You are quite right although I would not disagree with JT either. However, hitting the rescuers with a second missile is an old technique the Americans have used as far back as WWII. American bombers would bomb a German city at night, and when the rescuers moved in, and the remaining school children started off for school a second wave of bombers moved in to clean them up. Although it was designed to lower German moral it did not work, and it will not work in Pakistan either.

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  • J T
    Nov 27, 2013 - 3:02AM

    @Taimoor:
    The word “double-tap” in my post is actually a hyper-link which directs you to a wikipedia article explaining what double-tap really is (and it isn’t what you think it is).

    And before you go all “its only wikipedia” on me, please do take the trouble to check the references in the wikipedia article.

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  • LoyalPakistani
    Nov 27, 2013 - 3:05AM

    @Kolsat:
    If terrorists use children as human shield then take ground action rather than justifying innocent deaths like a coward. Where is the 24/7 bragged “bravery” of soldiers

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  • numbersnumbers
    Nov 27, 2013 - 7:56AM

    @Sexton Blake:
    Any historical search of WW2 operations would have found that the British bombers operated over occupied Europe at night, while the American bombers operated during the day!
    As for bombers were relatively slow by today’s standards, and the Germans had a very good Radar plotting staff, there was adequate warnings ahead of time for “school children” not to be walking to school!!!
    Of course the unguided dumb bombs of that era were far less accurate then the TTP suicide bombers slaughtering “unwarned” Pakistanis in this era!

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  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 27, 2013 - 10:04AM

    @numbersnumbers:
    Dear numbers,
    AS usual you got it wrong, Additionally,you forgot to mention that WWII bombs were less accurate than the US drones routinely hitting Pakistan people in their houses.

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  • Asra
    Nov 27, 2013 - 4:52PM

    What about “those things” that the TTP murders tens of thousands of Pakistanis with? And the Americans also kill a lot of Chechens, Arabs and Uzbeks with “those things”. Where are the protests about these foreigners violating our sovereignty to live on our land and support attacks against us?Recommend

  • observer
    Nov 27, 2013 - 8:42PM

    And forget the ‘double-taps’ (killing rescuers) and ‘bug-splats’ (dead civilians) and other frat party lingo the strikers use to murder Pakistanis with.

    ‘Double Taps’?

    Why does this sound familiar? Where have I heard this before?

    Bingo! Got It.

    A. Police sources said that the first blast took place in a snooker club on Alamdar Road when people were busy playing the game. Several people were killed or injured in the blast.
    A second blast took place 10 minutes after the first blast outside the snooker club when a large number of people, police and rescue workers gathered there. A majority of people were killed and injured in the second blast.

    http://dawn.com/news/777830/at-least-93-lives-lost-in-quetta-explosions

    B. And then. First ambush and kill Policemen and then bomb the funeral service.

    http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/08/08/19931571-suicide-bomb-at-cops-funeral-kills-29-mourners-in-quetta-pakistan

    C. Bomb Women on a bus and then attack the hospital

    “As many as 12 students died on the spot and 22 others sustain injuries from splinters when the remote-controlled device exploded,” CCPO Mir Zubair told reporters. Some of the armed supporters of the terrorists stormed the BMC Complex and took many people hostage, including some officials, relatives of the deceased and injured girl students, doctors and paramedics, he said.

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013%5C06%5C16%5Cstory16-6-2013pg1_1

    But all these ‘Double Taps’ are traced to the TTP.

    Why are the Drones being blamed?

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  • Solomon2
    Nov 28, 2013 - 5:09PM

    “As one brilliant case study by Notre Dame Law School’s Mary Ellen O’Connell reads, “The so-called ‘global war on terror’ is not an armed conflict. Members of the CIA are not lawful combatants and their participation in killing — even in an armed conflict — is a crime.” “

    Ms. O’Connell’s analysis is incomplete, else she wouldn’t have reached the conclusions she did. Military lawyers have combed over the system here. Drones are run by both the CIA and the military. The military has to be “in the room” when drones attack – thus making the attacks legal.

    “Drone attacks aren’t close to what the International Court of Justice considers ‘self-defence’ -“

    Drone attacks don’t have to be in order to be legal. Post-9/11, international law was modified by Chapter VII U.N. Security Council Resolutions (especially 1373). Ms. O’Connell did not take these changes into account. U.N. member states – including Pakistan, of course – now have the binding sovereign obligation to work to eliminate terror havens, terror-training camps, terror financing, etc. Failure to do so nulls sovereignty – that makes terror-controlled areas into open battlefields. (The 2005 “World Summit” she refers to is not itself international law but a reaffirmation of international law and its principles by the U.N. General Assembly.)

    All in all, O’Connell’s “brilliant case study” should be dimmed as it is well out of date.

    Recommend

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