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Living in the Path of Drones

Pakistani women and U.S. peace actives agree: U.S. military drone strikes must stop.

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"We wanted to let them know that Americans do care about injustice," said Benjamin. As she outlined in her 2012 book,  Drone Warfare - Killing by Remote Control, "In many ways, drones present the same moral issues as any other action-at-a-distance weapon: They allow warriors to kill at a minimal risk to themselves."

Describing her on-the-ground experience in Pakistan, Benjamin said people on the side of the road threw rose petals on the cars used by CODEPINK while they were there protesting the drones. "There was a Pashtun man who got up at one of the meetings and said, 'You have my heart and mind,'" she added.

"I was overwhelmed by the welcome that we received by the Pakistanis," said one of the organizing CODEPINK delegates to Pakistan, Alli MacCracken, who is also the current Washington, D.C., coordinator for CODEPINK.

The ultimate question facing a world that needs global peace is: how would American's feel about drone bombings in their own backyard? The answer seems obvious and points to the need for military culpability and transparency on all sides.

"On the whole, Pakistanis agree that the drone strikes should stop," said Pakistani journalist Huma Yusuf in a recent interview. 

Yusuf currently writes for  Dawn, Pakistan's largest daily newspaper. She is also a 2010-2011 Woodrow Wilson Scholar.  She explained that while their arguments differ markedly, both conservative and liberal Pakistanis are against the strikes continuing.

According to compilations by the  Bureau of Investigative Journalism, some 300 U.S. drone strikes have been conducted in Pakistan under Obama's command.  But experts including Yusuf agree that complete data on the casualties and deaths from drones have not been made available, from Pakistan or the United States.

"Journalists aren't allowed in the tribal areas, both by [Pakistan's] army and Taliban themselves," explained Yusuf. "It'll take an external party, the UN for example, to go into the area and conduct household surveys to determine who has been killed. But there isn't enough security for that," she added.

Christof Heyns, United Nations special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights,  announced in October that the UN will be launching an investigation unit to take a detailed look at U.S. policies of 'targeted killing' with drones.

"In my view it is unethical and immoral as well as illegal," continued Williams, who said that members of the Campaign to Ban Landmines were planning a new intensive global effort now to  "Stop Killer Robots."

In addition to pressure from leaders such as Williams and the CODEPINK activists, today much of the ongoing work for human rights is being carried out by numerous Pakistani women who hope to bring greater stability and democracy to their home region.  "I think this factor also matters: are the drone strikes so important that the U.S is willing to undermine Pakistan's democratic transition?" asks Yusuf.

"Drone strikes are the number one reason that the general public has developed feelings of hostility and hatred towards the U.S.," said journalist Jamal. Referring to recent reports of  drone use by the Syrian regime she added, "Peace activists must unite on this important issue and stand with us since drone strikes are not just being carried out in Pakistan, but Syria as well."


Human rights journalist Lys Anzia’s work has appeared on Truthout, CURRENT TV, ReliefWeb, UNESCO, World Bank Publications, UN Women, Vital Voices, Huffington Post World, The Guardian News and Thomson Reuters Foundation Trustlaw, among many others. Anzia is also the founder/editor-at-large for the international award winning news network, WNN - Women News Network.

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