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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.

Photo Credit: U.S. Army


This story originally appeared at the Women's Media Center Web site. To receive WMC features by email, click  here.

As the 2012 U.S.
election dust settles for President Barrack Obama, a global issue is knocking on the White House door. The continuing U.S. policy on drones—pilotless aircraft used for tactical bombing—is causing an escalated stir outside the chambers of the White House, as well as a reported debate within.

Used as part of an accelerated campaign against what the administration calls the nation's "threat threshold," the expansion of the U.S. drone program since January 2009, when Obama officially began his presidency, has caused human rights advocates worldwide to speak out about possible crimes against humanity by the U.S. government.

"Pakistani women, including me, all wish that not only our country but the world should become a peaceful place to live and our future generation should have a society with freedom and equal opportunity to learn and earn," said Islamabad based Pakistani human rights journalist and staff reporter at Pakistan Observer Sana Jamal. "As you know, human rights advocates worldwide do not condone bomb strikes that are killing innocents!"

The campaign to use unmanned planes for bombings is not a new idea. The history of experimentation with the use of radio-controlled aircraft began as early  as 1917 picking up steam as the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory started to develop the drones further in 1935.

Just over six months ago the Obama administration went public outlining a military justification in the administration's use of drones to go after 'identified' insurgents.

"I know that for many people—in our government and across the country—the issue of targeted strikes raised profound moral questions," said John Brennan, White House counterterrorism adviser and deputy national security advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism, in an April 2012 presentation at the  Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. "It forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs and our values as a nation. If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven't struggled with this, then they haven't spent much time thinking about it. I know I have, and I will continue to struggle with it as long as I remain involved in counterterrorism," he continued.

According to a recent  New York Times report, Brennan is among those in the Obama administration who argue for restraint in drone use.

Human rights advocates, including scholars at  Stanford Law School and NYU School of Law, say the bombings may be killing many more victims than United States officials are publicly acknowledging. The resulting trauma to civilians corrodes chances for future peace in the region.

"Drones are used to carry out extrajudicial executions...murder," said Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams to WMC in a recent interview. They are also "illegal under the laws of war," she added. Williams received her 1997 Nobel Peace Prize after she was pivotal in the creation of the International  Campaign to Ban Landmines.

"We have a lot of things to do," said Medea Benjamin, cofounder of  CODEPINK - Women for Peace as she outlined the group's recent October campaign to stop the drone strikes in Pakistan. "We've been to an area where Pakistanis have not seen Americans for 10 years," added Benjamin describing families who live in the remote FATA - Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Waziristan, where drones have been reported to fly 24/7 over communities and homes.

The recent CODEPINK campaign brought 31 Americans and one Canadian to Pakistan as part of what CODEPINK calls a "humanitarian mission to meet with and help victims of drone strikes."

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