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News Link • WAR: About that War

The Ghost and the Machine: Drone Warfare and Accountability

• www.commondreams.org
Fazillah, age 25, lives in Maidan Shar, the central city of Afghanistan’s Wardak province.  She married about six years ago, and gave birth to a son, Aymal, who just turned five without a father. Fazillah tells her son, Aymal, that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.
 
That July, in 2007, Aymal’s father was sitting in a garden with four other men. A weaponized drone, what we used to call an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, was flying, unseen, overhead, and fired missiles into the garden, killing all five men.

Now Fazillah and Aymal share a small dwelling with the deceased man’s mother.  According to the tradition, a husband’s relatives are responsible to look after a widow with no breadwinner remaining in her immediate family. She and her son have no regular source of bread or income, but Fazillah says that her small family is better off than it might have been: one of the men killed alongside her husband left behind a wife and child but no other living relatives that could provide them with any source of support, at all.  
 
Aymal’s grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her son’s death, and that of his four friends. “All of us ask, ‘Why?’” she says, raising her voice. “They kill people with computers and they can’t tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts, they had suspicions.  But they didn’t take time to ask ‘Who is this person?’ or ‘Who was that person?’  There is no proof, no accountability.  Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring us bread.  I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life.”

Listening to them, I recall an earlier conversation I had with a Pakistani social worker and with Safdar Dawar, a journalist, both of whom had survived drone attacks in the area of Miran Shah, in Pakistan’s Waziristan province.  Exasperated at the increasingly common experience which they had survived and which too many others have not, they began firing questions at us.

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