SARAH HARVARD

The moments of September 11 were daunting, terrifying to the soul of the American heartland. Picture the apocalyptic scenes of horror: the dark, menacing black clouds of pungent smoke spreads to limitless boundaries, the symbol of America’s economic might collapsing unforgivingly in the streets of Manhattan, the military stealth of this country becoming vulnerable as the plane explodes ruthlessly, the city of New York becoming a ghost land of debris, the city that never sleeps now soulless. The American people are now left in continuous fear; the fear of another attack - another family or friend lost. I remember those days. I remember the lump in my throat, the drop in my stomach, the way my heart plummeted like a sunken ship. I’m still weeping to this day.

Since 2004, men, women, and children, all over the world have lived in the same continuous fear through the use of drone strikes by the United States.  What initially started during the Bush Administration has become drastically more intense since the Obama Administration took office. According to the Institute of Conflict Management, 2,375 civilians have been murdered in Pakistan alone by US drone strikes since 2005. As the casualties increase, the media has simultaneously spent less attention to the drone strikes attacks in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. When the media does report on drone strikes, sources often contradict one another on a variety of details including the casualty count, nationalities of those killed, and the structures targeted.

Interestingly enough, the report done by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School (Stanford Clinic) and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law mentions numerous unreported drone strikes that were covered up by the Musharraf regime. These strikes were instead attributed to Pakistani military operations, car bombs, and accidental explosions, cover ups designed to conceal the motives of the United States and Pakistan’s role in them. Furthermore, the US has believed that there has been a total of 344 drone strikes in Pakistan from June 17, 2004 to September 2, 2012; 52 ordered by the Bush Administration, and a ruthless 292 ordered by the Obama Administration.

To dismiss these drone strikes on Pakistani civilians as “some aerial strikes” is completely hypocritical and heartless. It is hypocritical and heartless on the part of President Obama who contradicts his message of “hope and change” to the American people. It is hypocritical and heartless, ignoring the “A New Beginning Speech” given at the American University of Cairo, a speech littered with deceptive rhetoric and false claims of progressing towards peaceful relations with the US and the Middle East. Most importantly, it is hypocritical and heartless in light of our own experiences in the aftermath of September 11. We, too, know what it is like to lose our loved ones.

American exceptionalism plagues this country of ours. The preposterous belief that we are free because of our democratic ideals and personal liberty is unrealistic and could easily be proven wrong with the Bush and Obama Administration’s war against the American people through (to name a few) the warrantless wiretapping of the Patriot Act, attempts at censoring the internet through CISPA and SOPA, the suspension of habeas corpus, the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial through the National Defence Authorization Act, and the assassination of American citizens like sixteen year old Abdulrahman Al-Alwaki who was killed through an executive order by President Obama. This flawed logic, this flawed idea that the world wants not the republic that we were initially created upon, but the democracy in which we live and the so-called freedoms we foolishly believe we have is setting America backwards, setting America up for more attacks. We often wonder to ourselves the cause of the rise of anti-Western sentiments, but how can we be so imprudently naïve to the fact that the ills of our foreign policy and the continuous attacks on civilians - not terrorists- are the root of the hatred against the United States? No country will hate us because we are “free and prosperous”; they hate us because our government imposes our Western values on them, because our government creates covert operations to assassinate and prop up dictators to defend our own interests, because our government takes away their right to a normal life, because our government funds dictators with weapons used to kill civilians abroad, and because our government kills people. They hate us because our government makes them experience the hardship that Khairullah Jan had to go through. Jan had told the researchers from Stanford and NYU of his heart-wrenching life living under drones:

“One day, my brother was coming from college...dropping his friend to his house, which is located behind our house a few kilometres away. I was coming from Mir Ali Bazaar...going to my house. That’s when I heard a drone strike and I felt something in my heart. I thought something had happened, but we didn’t get to know until next day. That’s when all the villagers came and brought us news that my brother had been killed...I was drinking tea when I found out. My entire family was there. They were crying...To lose such a young one; everybody is sad and it also affects the tribe, our community, as well. My mother is really affected. She is sad all the time, and my father is also heavily affected. At times he used to go to Peshawar or Karachi, he was outgoing, but now he sits at home.”

“I have been affected. The love that I had for studies - that has finished. My determination to study - that is also gone...if, for instance, there is a drone strike and four or five of your villagers die and you feel sad for them and you feel like throwing everything away, because you feel death is near - death is so close, so why do you want to study?”

If the use of drones is to be used to assassinate low-ranking Taliban insurgents, it surely is isolating and infringing upon the 180 million Pakistani civilians. The United States refuses to acknowledge the use of drones on these civilians as an act of war. The logic is completely delusional. There is no difference between a looking a child in the eye before shooting them and dropping bombs on hundreds of children; both are an act of war. The Pakistani people live in a war zone; they live in a September 11 every single day.

I will admit to having been a loyal supporter of President Obama in 2008. I was anti-war then, and I am anti-war today. Today, my opinion of him has changed. While I once considered it my duty to support a president I believed in, I now consider it my duty to speak against a president who has failed his people. And I will continue to fight. I will continue to criticise the President regardless of his political party. I will speak up for the for the Khairullah Jans of the world so that no one will see their dreams crushed and their loved ones sacrificed to a government’s cruel thirst for dominance. I will speak up for the American people so that another attack on the United States will never be an issue. I will speak up for what America is essentially about - the concept of the rights of people to life, liberty, and property. The people of Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia have these same rights. I will speak up, because it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s the only thing we can do.

–Antiwar