‘Since 2004, up to 884 innocent civilians, including at least 176 children, have died from US drone strikes in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. A new report from the Stanford and New YorkUniversity law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan. In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Many interviewees told the researchers they didn’t know what America was before drones. Now what they know of America is drones, death and terror (24 September 2012)’.
The report, called “Living Under Drones,” describes the conditions of daily life in communities in northwest Pakistan where drones hover 24 hours a day, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children, driving many to stay away from school, funerals, and routine economic, social, and communal activities.
“We heard horrendous stories from people who lost loved ones, who witnessed drone strikes, or had been injured themselves,” said Professor James Cavallaro, Director of the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at StanfordLawSchool and an author of the report. “And perhaps most shocking are the psychological and social ramifications for whole families and communities. People are scared to go to the market, to school, to socialize because of the terror that a drone could strike anywhere at any moment.”
The Stanford-NYU research team conducted nine months of research, including two investigations in Pakistan. Researchers interviewed over 130 individuals, including civilians who traveled out of the largely inaccessible region of North Waziristan to meet with the research team. They also interviewed medical doctors who treated strike victims, humanitarian professionals, and journalists who worked in drone-impacted areas.
One small business owner from North Waziristan described the devastation caused by drones. Strikes “destroy human beings,” he said. Afterwards, “there is nobody left and small pieces left behind. Pieces. Whatever is left is just little pieces of bodies and cloth.” The everyday effect of drone strikes was underscored by the president of the local journalists union. “If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of a drone…[or]…Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me.”
“The voices of the people who live where drones fly constantly – and who bear the primary costs of U.S. drone attacks – are largely absent in the U.S. public debates and in the U.S. media,” said another report author Professor Sarah Knuckey, a human rights lawyer at NYU, and former advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. “This report is a step towards bringing their accounts to a U.S. audience. Policy-makers and the American public cannot continue to ignore evidence of harm and counter-productive impacts of U.S. drone strikes. A significant rethinking of current policies, in light of all relevant short and long-term costs and benefits, is long overdue”.