Clive Stafford Smith: The West's New Terror Campaign





 

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve.
 
Living Under Drones, a new report from Stanford and New York universities, was a difficult piece of fieldwork – I was with the law students in Peshawar as they tried to interview victims of the CIA's drone war. But it has made an important contribution to the drone debate by identifying the innocent victims of the CIA's reign of terror: the entire civilian population of Waziristan (roughly 800,000 people).
 
Until now, the most heated dispute has revolved around how many drone victims in the Pakistan border region are dangerous extremists, and how many children, women or men with no connection to any terrorist group. I have been to the region, and have a strong opinion on this point – but until the area is opened up to media inspection, or the CIA releases the tapes of each hellfire missile strike, the controversy will rage on.
 
However, there can be no sensible disagreement over certain salient facts: first, the US now has more than 10,000 weaponised drones in its arsenal; second, as many as six Predator drones circle over one location at any given time, often for 24 hours a day, with high-resolution cameras snooping on the movements of everyone below; third, the Predators emit an eerie sound, earning them the name bangana (buzzing wasp) in Pashtu; fourth, everyone in the area can see them, 5,000ft up, all day – and hear them all night long; fifth, nobody knows when the missile will come, and turn each member of the family into what the CIA calls a "bugsplat". The Predator operator, thousands of miles away in Nevada, often pushes the button over a cup of coffee in the darkest hours of the Waziristan night, between midnight and 5am. So a parent putting children to bed cannot be sure they will wake up safely.
 
Every Waziri town has been terrorised. We may learn this from the eyewitness accounts in Living Under Drones, or surmise it from the exponential increase in the distribution of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication across the region.
 
Sometimes it is difficult for those comfortably ensconced in the west to understand. But for me, it brings to mind my mother, Jean Stafford Smith. In 1944 she was 17...


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