Drone strikes, disappearances, torture, extra judicial killing, air attacks on civilians can never be rationalized

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Air bombardment Tribal Areas Pakistan

In the past week US Secretary of State John Kerry, appeared at the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos giving a talk on the fight against Islamist violence. As Dawn media reported, Kerry was very vocal stating that attacks such as the Peshawar Army School assault which left 140 adults and children dead, should never be rationalized. Once again the double standards are screaming out showing the hypocrisy of Kerry and his co-conspirators including the Pakistan government as they regularly rationalize many acts of alleged state terror. Here are a few of the examples…

Drones

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Nabila (was 9) when her grandmother was killed in a drone strike. She was injured alongside brother Zubair (13)

Let us not forget that Kerry famously said to BBC’S Hard Talk that, “the only people we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level… We don’t just fire a drone at somebody and think they’re a terrorist.” As Abigail-Fielding Smith points out, two thirds of drone victims are unidentified and she asks quite rightly, “how can we assess the credibility of statements like Kerry’s?” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has identified an ever-growing list of children killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The following names given are only those child victims confirmed up to 21st January, 2013 see following link,

http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/list-of-children-killed-by-drone-strikes-in-pakistan-and-yemen-via-drone-watch/

One person who disagrees strongly with Kerry’s rationalization for drone attacks is Rafiq ur Rehman. This Pakistani schoolteacher gave harrowing testimony on the impact of drone strikes in his area along with his children Zubair, 13, and Nabila, 9 who lost their grandmother Momina Bibi and sustained injuries themselves. Rafiq ur Rehman stated in the Guardian,

“some media outlets reported that the (drone) attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Others reported that the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All of them reported that three, four, five militants were killed….Only one person was killed that day, not a militant but my mother.”

Sara Jamal, a Yemeni activist tweeted series of messages from witnesses at a drone hearing in her country on 23rd April 2013, rejecting the rationalization of such attacks. Here are just two of the tweets she received;

“father of Wafaa 5 year old who was killed by a US drone is asking what have we done to have drones kill our children?”

”my brother was hurt with a US drone and when people tried to rescue him another drone hit and killed 11 men and a pregnant woman”

Brendan Bryant, a former drone operator gave an interview to RT’s Anissa Naouai this week apologizing to the families of drone victims. There was no attempt at rationalization as he highlighted the lack of accountability and oversight in the US drone programme he described as “diseased” and a “black hole putrid system that is either going to crush you or you’re going to conform to it.” Referring to his work as part of this programme, he stated that he “couldn’t stand” himself for his six year participation and for “firing on targets whose identities often went unconfirmed.” So here we have a drone operator speaking out in direct opposition to Kerry’s attempts at justification of the targeted killing.

The US drone programme referred to by Noam Chomsky as “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times” is rationalized by the US, by former President Musharraf and by many civilians in the cities of Pakistan. Such hypocrites would no doubt be the first to object if drones were targeted at alleged insurgents dwelling in inner cities where residents could be put at risk from drone missiles. In fact authorities in Karachi are now considering introducing legislation to ban all drones over this urban area on the grounds of safety and security. 

Disappearing people, torture and extra-judicial killing

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Enforced disappearances, torture, extra-judicial killings common and a major factor leading to Peshawar school attack

Pakistan has a long history of disappearing people, torture and extra-judicial killing. What is particularly disturbing is state authorities justifying such behaviour through their own practice. Many Pakistanis that are quick to condemn the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) attack on Peshawar School gleefully rationalize these gross human rights abuses within their own country which were ironically a major factor leading to the Peshawar attack.

An article in Dawn media, 2013 stated, “the large scale instances of torture in custody are a common practice in Pakistan and there is no law in the country to stop this menace. Parliament should enact law for criminalisation of torture.” The publication also reported the words of the Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, IA Rehman who rcommented that “investigation through torture was a common practice of police in Pakistan”. He elaborated by saying,

“torture is a colonial legacy, which has been continued in Pakistan for decades. Torture is generally used to extort confessional statements from detainees. It has become societal attitude. Most of jail inmates are under trial prisoners, which is tantamount to torture as well. Similarly handcuffing of under custody is illegal, but the police still use it. The state agents justify torture in good faith for national security.”

In the weeks BEFORE the Peshawar School attack two Taliban groups repeatedly warned the army and police to stop this practice (as the bodies of young men piled up in custody or were dumped by the roadside) or their families would be targeted. These warnings regarding unlawful practice were ignored by authorities. Taliban had also complained that their women were also being harassed. As Sajida Mir, a female political activist, who has been tortured herself, pointed out in 2013 “not even women were spared.”

According to the Baltimore Sun, a report researched and written by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, for the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) identified that Police in Faisalabad, Pakistan’s third largest city, tortured more than 1,400 people during a six-year period. The report stated,

“law enforcement uses its power to inflict pain largely with impunity. Police beat detainees, hang them by their arms or feet for hours on end, force them to witness the torture of others, and strip them naked and parade them in public. Our analysis confirms longstanding concerns voiced by human rights defenders throughout Pakistan about police abuse.”

In December 2014, the Guardian reported that Salahuddin Amin, a British taxi driver, now has a legal case for damages against the UK government. Allegations pertaining to his case include that he was tortured after being detained in Pakistan at the request of the CIA and MI5. He alleges he was, “beaten, whipped and deprived of sleep by officers of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and on one occasion threatened with an electric drill.” Similar descriptions of torture have emerged from many different sources over recent years.

Professor Danielle Celermajer (University of Sydney) and author of The Poisoned Orchard of Torture, points out that in countries like Pakistan, it has become common practice to legitimize, dehumanize and normalize the practice of torture. She claims,

“extreme, violent and ideological war creates the exact conditions under which the meaning of torture is easily recast. Torturers did not see what they were doing as violating the most basic human dignity or acting with unspeakable cruelty.”

Many of those who condemn the Peshawar School attack fail to see they themselves have forsaken the moral high ground the moment they participated in, cheered on, justified or turned a blind eye to enforced disappearances, torture and extra-judicial killings. It is only now, after years of extreme abuse in custody, an anti-torture bill is finally going through parliament. The Senate Standing Committee on Interior has according to Dawn “unanimously adopted a draft anti-torture bill moved by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar in the upper house in August last year and referred it to the Chairman Senate.” Tragically, despite recent efforts, this is too late for the schoolchildren of Peshawar. There can be little doubt listening to those that have experienced abuse in Pakistan’s jails and to Taliban statements that anger at collective rationalization of state torture contributed to the attack on the school.

Air attacks on civilians

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Another alleged child victim of air bombardment Tribal Areas, Pakistan 

In recent days yet more disturbing footage has emerged showing the bodies of small children allegedly killed during air bombardments on the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. A TTP video showed footage of small open skulls which appear like bowls spilling out their visceral contents. Such strikes on civilians are not uncommon however due to media restrictions on reporting, the public rarely hear of such killings.

Adnan Rasheed, a former Pakistan Air Force junior technician who defected to the Taliban and was implicated in an assassination attempt on Musharraf described such actions in a recent video message to the Armed Services of Pakistan. He stated,

“in the name of War on Terror, you gave a bloodbath to Red Mosque and whole Tribal belt from Swat to South Waziristan. A non-stop series of barbaric operations, disappearances, mutilated bodies and record number of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons). Ironically you thought that despite of your evil actions and betrayals you will never incur the wrath of Allah Almighty.”

He also alleged that civilians were killed during an air strike intended to anihilate him, saying,

“the Pakistan Air Force claimed that they targeted my house on January 20, 2014. By the Grace of Allah, I and my family are safe. However, the bombing killed four innocent civilians. They were Maryam (4 years old), her mother Ayesha (24 years old), her grandmother (80 years old) and her uncle Bakhtullah (17 years old). A young boy Shahzeb (7 years old) and his sister (14 years old) were taken to Peshawar for treatment; they had sustained burns and broken bones. The symbol of shame, Pakistan Air Force, killed innocent civilians of the Mehsud tribe in an attempt to kill me along with my wife, two year old daughter and infant son.”

Authorities in Pakistan and the US would no doubt rationalize such actions as “collateral damage” but as Rasheed questions,

“why were women and children targeted? Why wasn’t the question raised: Which national or international law permits the killing of families?”

Was there an apology given to these civilians? Did this family receive compensation and appropriate medical support and counselling for extreme trauma? Most hit by airstrikes are just left to pick up the pieces with no-one held accountable for their actions.

The reality is, there is repeated rationalization from both state and civilians for acts which are violent, unlawful and even alleged war crimes. Politicians like John Kerry prescribe to others that they must never rationalize such acts yet this is their own common practice. As long as such double standards exist there will be a continuous cycle of violence and nothing will change. Arguably, the greatest self deceit that goes on in Pakistan at this present time is the unacceptable rationalization of the state’s double standards!

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

About Carol Anne Grayson

Blogging for Humanity.... Campaigner/researcher global health/human rights/drones/WOT/insurgency http://www.esrc.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/PO/experts/Health_and_Wellbeing.aspx Exec Producer of Oscar nominated documentary Incident in New Baghdad, currently filming on drones.
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