Members of militant groups in Pakistan may not be able to do much to prevent the United States from launching drone strikes in Pakistan, but, as the New York Times‘ Declan Walsh reports, militants conduct witch hunts against people they suspect of being informers and often torture them before shooting, hanging or beheading them.
From Walsh’s story:
…For several years now, militant enforcers have scoured the tribal belt in search of informers who help the CIA find and kill the spy agency’s jihadist quarry. The militants’ technique — often more witch hunt than investigation — follows a well-established pattern. Accused tribesmen are abducted from homes and workplaces at gunpoint and tortured. A sham religious court hears their case, usually declaring them guilty. Then they are forced to speak into a video camera.
The taped confessions, which are later distributed on CD, vary in style and content. But their endings are the same: execution by hanging, beheading or firing squad…
Walsh describes “macabre recordings” of individuals paid by the CIA to help them find targets. They are made to speak on camera like one young tribesman, Sidinkay, who was forced to say, “I am a spy and I took part in four attacks,” and, “Stay away from the Americans.” Stay away from their dollars.
Blindfolded, Sidinkay heard a “volley of shots” around him as three others were killed. He was left standing and, on camera, appeared confused. But, moments later, he was shot too and fell in the field where “informers” were being executed.
Additionally, Walsh highlights how the “spy war has further destabilized a tribal society already dangerously weakened by years of violence.” Paranoia about the proliferation of chips or tracking devices has “fueled rivalries between different clans who accused one another of planting the devices.”
The Taliban has claimed to have found “an inchlong electronic circuit board, cased in transparent plastic, that, when connected to a nine-volt battery, pulsed with an infrared light,” which they considered to be a tracking device. Walsh managed to get one “former American intelligence official” to confirm the CIA does use tracking devices. The Taliban has begun to scan “visiting vehicles” with cameras set to infrared mode. However, a “former Obama administration official,” speaking anonymously, suggested the Taliban may be putting too much emphasis on the tracking devices. “Satellites and aerial surveillance planes — whose powerful sensors sweep up mobile phone, Internet and radio intercepts from the tribal belt — provide much of the drone program’s electronic intelligence,” according to this official.
This aspect of the drone war was mentioned in a Stanford/NYU report, “Living Under Drones,” which was released earlier this year. Researchers spoke to Najeeb Saaqib, who claimed to know how these “chips” were working:
I think there are some other intelligence agencies, foreign intelligence agencies, also working there in the shape of our own people. They grow a large beard and take the same positions as our own people, working for those external agencies. They put a chip or something else in places, and then a drone strikes those places. That’s what we think.
The researchers were unable to confirm the existence of the “chips,” but the confirmed existence is unimportant. The fear and paranoia is reality and has pushed men to suspect one another and engage in acts of violence against individuals they suspect of being traitors.
Now, there is one point worth making: as horrifying as the torture and killings of alleged informers in Pakistan might be, those targeted by these militant groups are afforded more justice than targets of US drone attacks.
How are the militant witch hunts any worse than the Obama administration’s Star Chamber killing by committee?
As Tor software developer and WikiLeaks volunteer Jacob Appelbaum put it at the Chaos Communication Congress:
…Targeting information is fed to the CIA and to other groups from surveillance listening points from intelligence factories. So there is a direct relationship between surveillance and support of straight up murder. That is something which sounds scary but what makes it even scarier is that the way that those drone killings are carried out is that the central committee who gets to decide who lives and dies or Obama’s assassination Star Chamber – that central committee which sounds a lot to me like some of the Soviet rhetoric I remember from my childhood – that central committee decides non-democratically who gets to be assassinated. And it’s just a hop or two from surveillance. So, when you assist the surveillance state, you literally are helping to kill fucking children…
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), over 170 children have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004 and anywhere between 470 to 880 civilians have been killed. Comparatively, American intelligence has reported at least one death squad in Afghanistan has assassinated 250 people for their alleged cooperation with the United States.
“Militant enforcers” drag suspected informers before “sham courts” while Obama administration officials do not even give those targeted for assassination any day in any “sham court.” Their due process is the Killing Committee setup in the Executive Branch with no judicial oversight. They use “intelligence” or information from “informers” in Pakistan or areas nearby to decide whom to attack. They also profile individuals in the area and kill people based on their patterns of behavior. And at no time are those about to die ever given a chance to plead with their executioner that they should not be killed.
Both militant groups and the Obama administration are responsible for instilling fear and paranoia in Pakistan and thus fueling terrorism. For Pakistanis, they choose their allegiance: stand with militants opposed to the United States, which is launching missiles from flying killer robots in the sky that are constantly buzzing around, or stand privately with the United States against militant groups who are killing people on the mere suspicion that they have become disloyal and traitorous.
The US drone war makes life in society harrowing and ensures terrorism and rule by death squads or extremist groups is perpetuated. This is the case in Yemen, where Al Qaeda’s presence has actually increased since the US started launching drone strikes.
There simply is no question anymore: to maintain the drone program is to fuel terrorism. If the goal of the Obama administration is to maintain the “war on terror” and not fight it, then drones are the perfect American weapon to drive individuals in so-called enemy countries to fear and oppose America to the point that they decide to take up arms and fight back.
Declan Walsh’s story uses the appropriate numbers from the organization that should be cited—the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ). Walsh and the NYT are to be commended for not using the Long War Journal or the New America Foundation‘s data, which a human rights clinic at Columbia University demonstrated to be flawed and incomplete earlier this year.