Fighting terror with a joystick won’t help
In a frenzy of violence, people just set out to kill their fellow beings and become indifferent to the plight of others. War is a state of mind in which people become oblivious to the meaning of the word “innocence.” They could see nothing but concrete structures to be targeted without even giving a single thought about the people within the confines of those “targets.”
Mamana Bibi, 68, was blown to pieces while out harvesting in a field together with her grandchildren in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan. “I just saw her shoes,” says her eight-year-old grandchild Nabeela; “We had to collect other parts of her body from all over the field.” This is just one example of the much-trumpeted art of war. The sexagenarian was innocent; she had not committed any crime. Why did she become a victim of this so-called art?
According to media reports, five men were killed in a drone strike in Yemen in August 2012. Of them three were described by the Yemeni authorities as members of Al-Qaeda. What about the remaining two killed in that attack? It subsequently emerged that one of those two was a priest who preached against Al-Qaeda. But by then it was, of course, too late. A minibus was targeted in another drone attack, yet again in Yemen, on Sept. 2, 2012, and 12 civilians — including a pregnant woman and three children — were killed. “It was a mistake,” said US counterterrorism forces. Compensation was paid to the families of the dead, and the matter was closed.
“A mistake”! Killing is as easy as that. It is easier with drones, because those pressing the trigger do not have to see the children and women inside a minibus or the grandmother blown to bits in a field. It is merely a video game for many soldiers operating in air-conditioned rooms far from the areas of conflict. A report in their hands, a map on the screen and a target: Not a person, a mother, husband or brother. Just a target! There is no responsibility, feelings or humanity.
Ever since drones, which were developed for intelligence gathering purposes, turned into weapons of war furnished with missiles, they have turned into nightmares for people in areas of conflict such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen. “Many people have been psychologically damaged,” says one young Pakistani. “We are terrified of every low-flying plane. Many people are receiving psychological treatment for that reason alone.”
Top-secret documents show that in one year alone, almost half of those killed were simply listed as “unknown extremists”. Isn’t that easy? There is no need even to know the “target.”
The United States may perhaps be trying to use drones to reduce military spending following former President Bush, and to carry out its policy of stepping back from the Middle East. It is true that spending has gone down, but the US has not been able to pull itself out of the region. These attacks are proving to be counterproductive as anti-US sentiments are on the rise and children grow up with a desire for revenge. It is not surprising that, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center poll, 74 percent of Pakistanis regard America as an enemy. Can drones — which do not distinguish the guilty from the innocent and the terrorist from the hapless bystander — really represent a solution for the US? Will terrorism be eliminated this way? The US is mistaken; drone attacks cannot eliminate terror. These attacks will only increase extremism. Washington must not forget that a great many people spread terror out of ignorance. There is no point in condemning, cursing, imprisoning or using drones to kill someone who thinks, out of ignorance, that by killing he is waging a “holy war.”
The powers that be should try to understand the factors leading to radicalization of people. The only way to fight terrorism is the introduction of the pristine teachings of Islam, through education; in other words, not through drones.
The US must also not forget that the soldiers who slay the innocent from their computer screens will return to their own communities either psychologically damaged or as ruthless killers. It must not be forgotten that 350 US troops returned from Iraq and took their own lives in 2012. Societies that become too comfortable with killing inevitably bear the tragedy themselves. It is in our hands to fill this world with communities of peace through education, rather than communities of war perpetrating random attacks. Time has come for the superpowers to change their plans in the Middle East. They must use education as a weapon, not drones. If they really desire peace, that is.
- The writer is a commentator on Turkish tv & a columnist.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view