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The Real Story Behind Pakistan Drone Strikes




With governments like Pakistan's current regime, who needs the strong arm of the CIA? According to Bob Woodward's latest bestseller Obama's Wars, when Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, an obsequiously dangerous man, was notified that the CIA would be launching missile strikes from drones over his country's sovereign territory, he replied, "Kill the seniors. Collateral damage worries you Americans. It doesn't worry me."

Why would he worry? When his wife Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 2007 to run for prime minister after years of self-imposed exile, she was already pledged to a campaign of pro-American engagement. She promised to hand over nuclear scientist and international bogeyman Dr. A.Q. Khan, the "father" of the Pakistani atomic bomb, to the International Atomic Energy Agency.


In 2008, for example,
Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani enthusiastically told American Ambassador Anne Paterson that he "didn't care" if drone strikes were launched against his country as long as the "right people" were targeted. (They weren't.) "We'll protest in the National Assembly," Gilani added cynically, "and then ignore it."

In fact, protests by the National Assembly have been few and far between and yet Pakistani territory had been targeted by American unmanned Predator and Reaper missile strikes more than 100 times this year alone. CIA drone strikes have, in fact, been a feature of the American war in Pakistan since 2004. In 2008, after Barack Obama won the presidency in the U.S. and Zardari ascended to Pakistan's highest office, the strikes escalated and soon began occurring almost weekly, later nearly daily, and so became a permanent feature of life for those living in the tribal borderlands of northern Pakistan.


While the dead are regularly identified as "militants" or "suspected militants" in newspaper stories and on the TV news, they almost never have names, nor are their identities confirmed or faces shown. Their histories are always vague. The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) took a careful look at nine drone strikes from the last two years and concluded that they had resulted in the deaths of 30 civilians, including 14 women and children. (Perhaps, of course, superior American military intelligence classified them as "militants in training.") Based on this study, an average rate of error can be calculated: 3.33 civilians mistakenly killed in each drone attack. The dead, Pakistanis will assure you, are largely unnamed, faceless, unindicted, and un-convicted civilians.

Pakistanis are considered irrelevant, however, and collateral damage, as it turns out, doesn't seem to worry anyone in the governing elite.

In 2009, in one of the many State Department cables Wikileaks loosed on the world, U.S. Ambassador Anne Paterson confirmed that
key player and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani directed his forces to aid those American drone strikes. Various U.S. operations in the country's northern and tribal regions were, the ambassador wrote, "almost certainly [conducted] with the personal consent of… General Kayani."

The Zardari government makes no secret of its gratitude for American support. They have, after all, watched as a foreign power bombs its land, illegally detains or renders its citizens, and turns a blind eye to Pakistan's flagrant censorship and abuse of human rights.


At the height of the devastation wreaked by the summer floods, the Health Secretary of Balochistan and the Deputy Chairman of the Pakistani Senate both alleged that
aid could not be airlifted out of an air base in the city of Jacobabad on the border between Sindh and Balochistan, two flood ravaged provinces, because it was being used by the Americans for their drone strikes in Pakistan. The American embassy issued a swift and suitably hurt-sounding denial, but the damage was done -- and the message was clear: the war against Pakistan continues unabated, with its own government at the helm.

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