World attention has been focused, however briefly, on questions of legality regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. But with the increasing use of Predator drones to kill suspected “high-value targets” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, extrajudicial killings by U.S. military forces have become the new norm.
Just three days after Osama bin Laden was killed, an attack employing remote-control aerial drones killed 15 people in Pakistan and wounded four. CNN reports that its Islamabad bureau has counted four drone strikes
over the last month and a half since the March 17 drone attack that
killed 44 people in Pakistan’s tribal region. This most recent suspected
strike was the 21st this year. There were 111 strikes in 2010. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that 957 innocent civilians were killed in 2010.
I’m reminded of an encounter I had in May 2010, when a journalist and a social worker from North Waziristan met with a small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation in Pakistan and described, in gory and graphic detail, the scenes of
drone attacks that they had personally witnessed: the carbonized bodies,
burned so fully they could be identified by legs and hands alone; the
bystanders sent flying like dolls through the air to break, with shattered
bones and sometimes-fatal brain injuries, upon walls and stone.
“Do Americans know about the drones?” the journalist asked me. I said I thought that awareness was growing on university campuses and among peace groups. “This isn’t what I’m asking,” he politely insisted. “What I want to know is
if average Americans know that their country is attacking Pakistan with
drones that carry bombs. Do they know this?”
“Truthfully,” I said, “I don’t think so.”
“Where is your democracy?” he asked me. “Where is your democracy?”