Adrian MacNair

Where Are The Stories On What Pakistanis Actually Think About Drone Attacks?

Posted on January 3 2010 2:00 pm
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The New York Times ran a short piece yesterday via Reuters news service which indicated that U.S. drone attacks in Afpak [Afghanistan and the Pakistani border] are “undermining efforts to deal with militancy.” A drone aircraft was reported to have killed 3 militants in a car traveling in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. It also mentions that on Thursday another drone attack successfully killed two other militants in the same region.

What is frustrating for many people following the situation in Afpak, is that despite the success of using unmanned aerial drones to locate and eradicate militants, the mainstream media tends to give off the impression that the tactic is a controversial one because of alleged civilian deaths. The end of the Times article states that the U.S. killed 415 people with drones in 2009, many of whom were foreign militants, but that Pakistan is concerned the civilian casualties could inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants and terrorism. Really? Let’s analyze that, shall we?

Do you think that it inflamed public anger against the U.S. and bolstered support for terrorism after militants murdered 75 innocent people in Lakki Marwat yesterday? How many hearts and minds did the militants win when they killed 44 Shiites at a procession in the southern city of Karachi on December 28? Or the suicide bombing that killed 33 in Punjab’s Dera Ghazi Khan on December 15? The 48 killed in a market in Lahore and the 10 in Peshawar on December 7? The 35 killed in a mosque in Rawalpindi on December 4?

We haven’t even gone back a month yet, and the death toll for “major” bombings is 245. How many of those were Muslims killed by their fellow Muslims?

And what do the people living in Afghanistan and Pakistan actually think about NATO and U.S. forces and drone strikes on militants? You wouldn’t know it from reading any mainstream media in North America, but the people are quite happy about our presence. Do you think the mainstream media would be responsible enough to report this Pakistani piece:

…They see the US drone attacks as their liberators from the clutches of the terrorists into which, they say, their state has wilfully thrown them. The purpose of today’s column is, one, to challenge the Pakistani and US media reports about the civilian casualties in the drone attacks and, two, to express the view of the people of Waziristan, who are equally terrified by the Taliban and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. I personally met these people in the Pakhtunkhwa province, where they live as internally displaced persons (IDPs), and in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

I would challenge both the US and Pakistani media to provide verifiable evidence of civilian ‘casualties’ because of drone attacks on Waziristan, i.e. names of the people killed, names of their villages, dates and locations of the strikes and, above all, the methodology of the information that they collected. If they can’t meet the challenge, I would request them to stop throwing around fabricated figures of ‘civilian casualties’ that confuse people around the world and provide propaganda material to the pro-Taliban and al Qaeda forces in the politics and media of Pakistan.

Let us not forget that the Taliban, aided by the mainstream media, lie. They lie all the time. The Taliban’s “Year in Review” for 2009 claims to have killed 5,587 foreign troops in Afghanistan. The actual casualties for western troops has been 521 over the past year, leaving the Taliban with a lie ratio of 10.7:1.

Perhaps our media could spend more time investigating what civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan actually think about drones, rather than copy editing the talking points from the Pakistani government and Taliban propaganda.

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