Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Drones Are Coming:
New War on Civilians
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, May 21, 2009
US President Barack Obama took the podium in a White House press
conference and stood with an all-embellished confidence that often
accompanies new presidents. He was flanked by two leaders whose apparent
grandeur barely reflected their embattled situations on the ground: Afghan
President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
The meeting at the White House on 6 May was fashioned to give the impression
that the new US administration is both "serious" and "committed" about
resolving the crises plaguing Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are
imprudently reduced to that of a Taliban resurgence in the former, and a
Taliban- inspired militant encroachment in the latter. Obama declared the
meeting "extraordinarily productive" as the three nations, he said, are
joined by the common goal to "defeat Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies in
Pakistan and Afghanistan".
The skewed reading of reality didn't
cease there. "I am pleased that these two men, elected leaders of
Afghanistan and Pakistan, fully appreciate the seriousness of the threat
that we face and have reaffirmed their commitment to confronting it," Obama
said. Both leaders listened solemnly as to reflect the level of their
For a fleeting moment one did in fact hope that Obama
would bring with him more than a new language; rather, an entirely new take
on US foreign policy. That hope is already in tatters.
conveyed the right message last week by hosting Afghan President Hamid
Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The meeting at the White
House reflected the close link between Pakistan and the anti-Taliban
struggle in Afghanistan. Indeed, nests of Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other
extremists sheltering on the Pakistani side of the border have become a
grave threat to Pakistan itself," opined a Boston Globe editorial. But the
Globe also counselled: "As recent events suggest, US military strikes
against militants in both countries inevitably provoke anger and indignation
This is as much as most US media -- and of course,
the US administration -- are willing to concede as far as US responsibility
in lethal wars, civil strife and militancy in both countries is concerned.
In fact, if one is to delineate a major difference in the Bush and Obama
administrations regarding Afghanistan, it's the fact that Obama apologises
when the number of innocent civilians killed by US air strikes is too
harrowing to ignore. Another notable difference is that he has committed
17,000 additional troops to the already war-devastated country, promising
"I wish to express my personal regret and certainly
the sympathy of our administration on the loss of civilian life in
Afghanistan," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her public apology
to the killing of over 100 civilians in two Afghan villages 4 May. The
apology, however, was obliquely qualified by the US military in comments
made by Tech Sergeant Chuck Marsh on 9 May: "Reports also indicate that
Taliban fighters deliberately forced villagers into houses from which they
then attacked ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] and Coalition forces,"
So, somehow, the US is still not responsible.
the war is flaring up in Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani
families have fled the area, and the main town of Migora has been virtually
emptied of its inhabitants. Reuters reported that, "Pakistani forces
attacked Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley with artillery and helicopters
after the United States called on the government to show its commitment to
fighting militancy." One has to wonder who is giving the orders in this
foolish war, anyway? Moreover, does Obama genuinely think that the Pakistani
"Taliban" can be defeated using the exact approach that failed against the
Taliban of Afghanistan?
The escalation in Pakistan is not entirely
surprising, however, as US officials and media pundits have been adamant in
advising the new administration that it was not Afghanistan that posed the
greater threat to US interests, but Pakistan. It was similar to the attitude
of neoconservatives in the Bush administration after its failure in Iraq. It
was not Iraq that the US should have attacked, but Iran, they tirelessly
parroted, hoping to generate yet another war.
What we are not told,
however, is that unremitting US bombings of the utterly poor and neglected
northern provinces of Pakistan have garnered untold animosity towards the US
and its central government allies. It provoked, in some areas, total chaos
and lawlessness, which in turn gave rise to the Pakistani "Taliban". History
is repeating itself, but the US administration is taking no notice of the
A Pakistan writer, Abd Al-Ghafar Aziz, wrote for
Al-Jazeera's Arabic website: "Since the US attack on Afghanistan, the
province [of Balochistan] has been accused of supporting terrorism and
harbouring the leaders of Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Since then, US planes,
especially drones, have been striking what it calls 'precious targets',
resulting in the death of over 15,000 people." Aziz described the people of
that region "like orphans without shelter, and without protection."
Naturally, tribe leaders, militant groups and others moved to fill the gap.
If there is one outstanding similarity between the Afghanistan and
Pakistan cases it is the fact the US is using the same flawed logic that
responds to most delicate conflicts with bullets, whether those of its own
or its allies. If the new administration is keenly interested in reversing
the misfortunes of that region, it has to understand the uniqueness of every
country and appreciate the untold harm inflicted on civilians by the US and
other militaries. Only dialogue and truly respecting the sovereignty of
Afghanistan and Pakistan can begin to stabilise the fractious situation.
There are an estimated one million Pakistanis already on the run in the
northern and eastern parts of the country. They are threatened by fighting,
hunger and all sorts of predators, including US drones circling overhead.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His
latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is, “My Father Was
a Freedom Fighter: Gaza The Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London)