There’s a new and horrifying first-hand account of the US drone war that recently made it into a mainstream news publication. Over at The Independent in the UK, they present the story of Malik Jalal, a Pakistani man that is trying to get off the US’s “Kill List”.
At this point, the skeptical reader might reasonably wonder how exactly one learns that they are on the Kill List. After all, it’s not like you can just call up a Congressman to ask. (And given the US’s history of accidentally targeting people based on similar names or misinterpretations, it’s not entirely clear how reliable such a service would be at any rate.) No, instead, Jalal has learned of his status by experiencing multiple brushes with death at the hands of drones. These included the following:
- When an SUV identical to his own was behind him on the road and struck by a drone missile
- When he lent his car to his nephew to go get an oil change, and the mechanic’s shop was bombed by drones
- When he was on his way to a friend’s house and saw the house get bombed before he arrived
- When he told friends he would meet them for lunch, and the place of the meeting was also bombed before his arrival
- When he was running late to tribal jirga (roughly akin to a townhall or city council meeting), and the jirga was bombed, killing at least 40 people.
I went outside and slept under the tree and the 7-years-old son of mine, Bilal, he came up to me and he also wanted to spend the night there. And when I said to him, ‘Don’t worry. You can go home and sleep there; they [the US] wouldn’t kill a child.’ And he answered back saying, ‘How do you know, Father, that they won’t kill a child? I, myself, have seen with my own eyes children being killed by drones. So don’t tell me they don’t target children.’
And if the emotional angle doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the fact that all of this is unbelievably counterproductive. After enduring the constant presence of armed drones flying overhead for the entirety of President Obama’s tenure and part of President Bush’s reign before that, there can be no doubt how the vast majority of the affected populations must feel about the United States government. If anyone still asks “why do they hate us?”, certainly, the drone assassination program must register in the top 10.
Fortunately, at least to this point, relatively few Muslims and Arabs have become outraged and desperate enough to sacrifice their own life in pursuit of revenge. But every day that goes by with an armed drone circling overhead, and every strike with its inevitable collateral damage, pushes more and more people towards the extremes. Millions of people in Muslim countries live knowing that, if the sky is clear and they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, their lives could end at any moment from a hellfire missile. If the word terrorism is to have any coherent meaning at all, the US drone program would be the epitome of it.
In closing, Jalal’s story is a reminder of the horrors US foreign policy under Democrats and Republicans alike. The assassination program destroys innocent lives, inspires more radical anti-American sentiments in its wake, and operates without the pretense of due process. And even if no major politician in this election cycle is going to oppose this policy,* you should.
*Yes, that includes Bernie. His opposition to the death penalty only applies to domestic criminals that receive a trial; foreigners that do not receive a trial are totally fair game, as long as they’re from a sufficiently obscure country.