In March 2013, after a three-day fact-finding visit to Pakistan, United Nations terrorism and human rights envoy, Ben Emmerson, issued a statement calling the U.S. drone strikes a violation of international law.
Let’s take a look at a summary of several combined reports on US illegal drone strikes with heavy civilian casualties as their consequences:
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called out the U.S. for “illegal” drone strikes in separate reports released on Tuesday. Amnesty focused on nine strikes in Pakistan between May 2012 and July 2013, claiming more than 30 civilians were killed in the strikes. HRW investigated six selected strikes in Yemen since 2009, finding that 57 of the 82 people killed were civilians. Each specific incident had coverage by local and even international news outlets, but the reports go more in depth by interviewing survivors, other witnesses, and government officials. These findings come just days after a United Nations report which found that as many as 600 of the 2,200 people killed by drone strikes in Pakistan were civilians.
Various reports, even those diluted by US mainstream outlets, have established that a large percentage of drone casualties have been born by civilians:
In Yemen, Human Rights Watch investigated six selected airstrikes since 2009 and concluded that at least 57 of the 82 people killed were civilians, including a pregnant woman and three children who perished in a September 2012 attack.
The groups’ findings coincide with a report released Friday by a U.N. human rights investigator, who estimated that 2,200 people have been killed in drone strikes over the past decade in Pakistan. Of those casualties, at least 400 were civilians and 200 others were “probable noncombatants,” according to the U.N. official, Ben Emmerson. He said the statistics were provided by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry.
There have been many reports, articles and editorials on this topic. The cost of drones, from civilian casualties to human rights violations to creating increased hatred of Americans, has been an ever-present subject in the news media, academia, NGOs, grassroots activists and political commentary blogs.
You would think, considering the enormity of this issue, its implications and consequences, that Americans would be hungry to learn and examine it further and deeper. You would think that the American people would be eager to tackle this illegal war, since it is being waged in our name, with our dollars and other priceless valuables such as our image, reputation, and safety. Safety, because creating justified hatred and animosity always comes back to haunt us.
You would think all that, wouldn’t you? But you would be wrong. Based on what took place last week, it became very clear that over 95% of the people in the United States do not care about the illegal drone wars that are being waged in our name. We do not give a damn about the high percentage of civilian casualties. And we do not consider these aggressions and violations significant or worthy of our attention.
Last week the members of the United States Congress had a chance to hear directly from civilian survivors of such attacks at a special hearing. This was a first since the United States began launching drones attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. representatives would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing. Only 5.
Believe me, it was not easy to bring these witnesses over here to enlighten us; to let us hear directly of the atrocities that are being waged in our name:
The family was joined by their legal representative Jennifer Gibson of the UK human rights organization Reprieve. Their Islamabad-based lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, was also supposed to be present but was denied a visa by the US authorities—"a recurring problem," according to Reprieve, "since he began representing civilian victims of drone strikes in 2011."
According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.). Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.
That’s right. Of 435 representatives-those who were voted by Americans to represent us, only 5 attended this historical briefing. The rest of them, 430 representatives who represent the American people, declined to attend, and by doing so sent the following message:
We, as the representatives of the people, do not give a damn about the cost of our illegal drone strikes, the civilian casualties, the injured, and the loved ones left behind.
These absent representatives represent the majority of the American people. A big majority. By big, I mean a 98+% majority. Allow me to break this down:
130,292,355 Americans went to the ballots and voted in 2012. We voted to elect representatives because we believe we live in a nation with a representative government. We voted in these representatives so that they would represent us.
Of 130,292,355 people who voted and elected our representatives, only 976,998 people consider the illegal killings of innocent civilians and bystanders in our name as a subject worthy of scrutiny and consequent accountability. Here are the five representatives who represented these 976,998 people:
Rep. Alan Grayson- Florida’s 9th Congressional District: 164,891
Rep. John Conyers- Michigan’s 13th Congressional District: 235,336
Rep. Jan Schakowsky- Illinois’ 9th Congressional District: 194,869
Rep. Rush Holt- New Jersey's 12th congressional district: 189,926
Rep. Rick Nolan- Minnesota's 8th Congressional District: 191,976
These United States Representatives for 976,998 Americans considered the illegal drone wars waged by the United States resulting in many civilian casualties a significant issue. The rest, representing 129+ Million, did not.
What does this say about us? What does it say about the United States of America? How does the rest of the world view us Americans? How do the people of our targeted nations for our illegal strikes view and feel about us? Why wouldn’t we be the most hated nation in the world? Why wouldn’t they hate us? When you look at it this way, how could we not become the target of more terror? Who wouldn’t consider us the evil-doer nation?
Because, you see, if we are who we say we are, a representative nation, and if they are who we say they are, our representatives who represent us, then, we are the ultimate murderers. Our representative government has been murdering nonstop. They are Us. Thus, the hatred and vengeance of millions who have been suffering our illegal wars are deservedly directed at us. After all, as they say, we reap what we sow.
Sibel Edmonds is the Publisher & Editor of Boiling Frogs Post and the author of the Memoir Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. She is the recipient of the 2006 PEN Newman's Own First Amendment Award for her “commitment to preserving the free flow of information in the United States in a time of growing international isolation and increasing government secrecy” Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.