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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. peace group presents petition against drones in Pakistan

By Ken Hanly     Oct 6, 2012 in World
Islamabad - Robert Naiman, a member of a U.S. peace delegation to Pakistan, presented a petition with more than 3,000 signatures to Acting U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland. The petition asked for an end to drone strikes in Pakistan.
Naiman also delivered a letter to the ambassador from a number of prominent Americans demanding an end to the drone strikes. Among the signers were: Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Juan Cole, and Oliver Stone. The letter concludes: "We demand an immediate moratorium on the drone strikes. We demand that U.S. policy in Pakistan be brought into compliance with U.S. and international law, that the U.S. government come clean about civilian casualties, that civilian victims and their families be compensated, and that "signature" drone strikes and attacks on civilian rescuers be permanently abandoned, in Pakistan and everywhere else."
A recent survey on attitudes to drone attacks in different countries shows that the U.S. is the only major country where a majority approved of the strikes. In the U.S. 62% approved of the strikes, while only 28% approved. Among Republicans, 74% approved of the attacks but even among Democrats, 58% approved. In the UK, a close ally of the U.S,. only 44% approved while 47% disapproved. In Arab countries of the middle east disapproval was overwhelming. In Egypt just 6% approved, while 89% disapproved. But many European countries also showed strong disapproval with Greece having a 90% disapproval rate and only 5% approving.
Naiman noted that Hoagland actually responded in more detail to many of the concerns raised by the group compared to most U.S. officials. Naiman said that counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan had claimed back in April that civilian deaths as a result of the strikes had been rare. This is vague, and misleading as well. A Bureau of Investigative Journalism report claims that between 474 and 884 civilians have been killed as a result of the strikes. This is between a third and a sixth of the total deaths. Civilian deaths simply are not rare.
Another recent report, from Stanford and New York University, claims that only 2% of drone strike deaths are "high-level" targets. It would be more appropriate to call these rare. Of course, these are the deaths that are regularly reported in the media.
Naiman was particularly critical of the practice of striking an area multiple times a practice that often kills people trying to rescue those hurt in the first strike. A report from the Columbia Law School and Center for Civilians in Conflict notes:
"There are numerous reports of follow-up attacks and some accounts suggest they have the result of killing rescuers who come to the scene to aid wounded individuals. In February 2012, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that at least 50 individuals were killed in follow-up drone strikes in Pakistan when they had gone to help victims killed in initial strikes."
Some believe that killings of rescuers have been deliberate. Peter Matulich of the Small Wars Journal wrote:"Initial strikes on targets are based on sizeable amount of intelligence from both reconnaissance and HUMINT sources. However in the kill-boxes follow-up attacks often occur after the initial strike targeting those coming to the potential aid of wounded militants. It is in these follow-up attacks [that] rescuers are targeted in an attempt to score a windfall of extra militants killed. Unfortunately in these attacks on rescuers, the task of differentiating civilian from militant is up to the [discretion] of a drone operator. In these circumstances it appears little has been done to discern combatant from non-combatant, the consequence being an increased amount [of] civilian casualties."
Hoagland responded that he had never seen a case where there was a deliberate strike against rescuers. Naiman responded in turn that the recent Stanford/NYU report discusses these secondary, double-tap, or follow up strikes and attacking civilian rescuers in some detail and Naiman cited several other sources for the ambassador to look at. Even if the strikes were not deliberately aimed at rescuers inevitably rescuers would be victims as collateral damage.
The peace group is traveling to Waziristan for a massive peace rally this Sunday. The ambassador assured them that they would not be targeted! The Pakistani parliament has passed motions demanding the drone attacks stop several times but to no avail. Stopping drone attacks was supposedly a condition for re-opening NATO supply routes. The routes are now open but the drone attacks continue.
Opposition politician Imran Khan has claimed he would authorize shooting down U.S. drones if he became head of government. Khan claims the strikes violate Pakistan's sovereignty, kill many innocent people, and are counterproductive. Khan is leading a peace march over the weekend.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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