If you’re a civilian and you die in a drone strike, it’s your fault
Obama's drone policy of assassination without trial could be a war crime says Jemima Khan on Channel 4 News
I managed to break into the mainstream for a few minutes yesterday on MSNBC’s Weekend’s With Alex Witt to talk about the drone strike victims who addressed Congress last week, which I wrote about here for Truthout.
(If you missed the historic drones briefing, which marked the first time victims of drone strikes told their stories directly to Congress, you can and should watch it here. FYI, only 5 members of Congress showed up.)
While I appreciate Witt having me on to talk about such an important and underreported issue, I was shocked when she asked me the following question (at the 2:18 mark):
Shouldn’t there be an expectation by now that civilians take a risk by staying in the [North Waziristan] region?
To be fair, Witt may have just been playing devil’s advocate here, though I’ve never heard anyone make that argument before. Either way, to suggest that it’s up to civilians in North Waziristan—the region of Pakistan hit hardest by US drone strikes—to move elsewhere to avoid being killed amounts to victim-blaming of the worst kind.
As Julia Davis put it on twitter, “By the same logic, anyone who doesn’t want to be shot should move out of LA & NY.”
There’s also the fact that entering and leaving North Waziristan is no easy feat.
Reprieve attorney Jennifer Gibson, who accompanied the Rehman family on their trip from Pakistan to the United States, travels to Islamabad every few months to work with Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani attorney who represents over 150 drone strike victims (he was blocked by the CIA from receiving a visa to attend the drones briefing). After the briefing, Gibson explained to me the obstacles drone strike victims face when they attempt to leave Waziristan:
It’s not easy to get from Waziristan to Islamabad. It may not be that far on a map, but they have to go through seven or eight checkpoints and they get harassed at every checkpoint. Everyone assumes that they’re doing something wrong. They don’t know Islamabad. It’s not familiar to them, it’s something different. But they come because they’re determined to tell their story. [The Rehmans] in particular didn’t just come to Islamabad. They came all the way to the United States.
More importantly, the argument that civilians should leave their homes to avoid being killed by drone strikes absolves the US of its responsibility to not kill civilians, which is the opposite of how international law and basic human decency work.