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From Fairbanks to Waziristan


By Rob Mulford           

Seeds of Love

            It’s a long, long way from Fairbanks, Alaska to Waziristan, “Pakistan the land which is suffering because of those who have no conscience”.[i] I had the honor and privilege to make that journey in October of 2012 as a part of a peace delegation organized and led by that group of courageous activists known as Code Pink: “Women for Peace”. It was our intention to go to the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas of Pakistan to bear witness to the injuries and deaths caused by that portion of United States led “war on terror” being executed via the use of Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles (UAVs or drones).

            The idea for the Waziristan Peace Delegation was born on Sunday April 29th during action planning sessions that took place on day two of the Code Pink sponsored Anti-Drone Summit held in Washington, D.C. Barrister-at-Law Shahzad Akbar is renowned in Pakistan for his past efforts to prosecute corruption in that country. He is the legal director of the Foundation For Fundamental Rights, a Pakistani human rights organization that is representing families who have been injured by U.S. drone attacks.  Barrister Akbar asked Medea Benjamin, the cofounder of Code Pink if she would consider coming to Waziristan to visit with those families. She asked if she could bring along some other activists. He said yes. A sign up sheet was passed around and if history is to be just, this may be recorded as one of seeds of love that helped propagate the beautiful garden of a peaceful humanity.

            The idea was taken to Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, the Pakistan Party of Justice) by British human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith of the organization Reprieve. Imran Khan, who is probably the most popular man in Pakistan and possibly their next Prime Minister, made the “March to Waziristan” a large-scale demonstration and a project of the PTI.

            Just as the dark of night accentuates the candle of hope, a glimpse of the worldview “of those who have no conscience” can shed contextual light on the plight of the people “of the land which is suffering”. From Monday through Wednesday of the week, prior to the Code Pink Conference I attended the 8th Annual UAV Summit held by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA). The following two quotes taken from that event.

The Summit’s Monday Chairperson, Dr. Bill Powers of the Marine Warfighting Lab, opened the conference, by saying that these automated weapons systems are needed to help “that young kid, that 18, 19, 20-year-old that’s out there doing God’s work”. [ii]

Lieutenant General Heithold(Vice Commander, United States Special Operations Command) thanked the group of assembled weapons contractors and engineering firms for contributions without which he could not carry out his job.  He described this job as hunting and killing people and bragged that the technologies that they had contributed allowed him to track and kill his prey, identifying them from the air by the color of their turban or socks. When asked by one of the contractors in attendance “what is on your shopping list and what can we do to further help you in your mission?” He replied “give me the ability to ‘GPS Tag’ a person from the air.”[iii]

For Lack of Knowledge

            I was not lacking for opinion, comment, advice, and admonition when I announced that I was planning on going to Pakistan’s Northern Tribal areas. Reproductions of exotic and violent yarns are etched into our cultural memory. Some are traceable as far back as Vasco de Gama’s imperial adventures in the fifteenth century. Many a story that was afforded me seemed to end in the same tragic storyline with me losing my head over one thing or another. Some of my dearest friends, who I’ve come to know as open minded and progressive thinkers stated matter-of-factly as if repeating a mantra fashioned during a colonial period, “They hate us”, “They’re incapable of understanding ‘western values’”, “They’re unstable and are likely to turn on those who are there to help them”, and “They’ll cut your head off”.

            Although this does make me somewhat sad I recognize the source. Much has been said in the U.S. mainstream press recently concerning the negative image of the United States in this part of the world.  What goes for mainstream news and commentary seems to portray the problem as the collision of “Muslim Rage” with “Western Values”. Rarely is there any consideration given to questions that would uncover evidence justifying such rage or analysis that examines those “Values” any deeper than at face value. Reza Sayah, the international correspondent for CNN Islamabad, Pakistan provided some insight into this mechanism during a luncheon held for us in CNN’s Islamabad studio office. He said that his office prides itself on doing good journalism that they do not produce sensational stories for the sake of sensationalism. He explained that the bottom line of CNN as well as that of the other top networks with the possible exception of Al Jazeera is one based on ratings. The sensation of fear and violence drives up ratings in proportions that reasonable content cannot. So stories get changed or deleted, at the corporate level, that do not fit the “news as entertainment” formula. Fear and arrogance, like the rollercoaster ride or the graphically violent horror movie is profitable, sells advertizing, boosts ratings, and elects politicians.

Fakar and Sayed Economic Victims of the “War On Terror”

            Many a story revealed to me in conversations with Pakistanis shared the commonality of imposed hardship, woven like a thread through their socio-economic fabric.  The thread, spun from the destabilizing forces of war, a war that is not of their choosing, is the product of the foreign / military policies of the “super power” that my passport describes as my nationality. What surprises me most is not that "they hate us" - I know now from first hand experience “they” don't- but that after a couple of weeks meeting Pakistanis in all walks of life many of whom were devout Muslims everyone that I spoke with said that they thought that Americans were good people. They however do not understand their portrayal in the American media and they justly dislike the policies of our government especially the U.S. led “war on terror”.

            Two conversations chronologically framing my stay are not only demonstrative of the socio economic impacts of the “war on terror” on the average Pakistani family but are also indicative of their understanding.  This understanding that appears to be lacking in my own homeland.

            As I had accustomed myself to doing during my stay in Palestine in the winter of 2009, I arose each morning to theSalat al-Fajr, the beautifully spiritual and reverent chant emanating from the local Mosque that is the Muslim morning call to prayer. Fakar works the night shift at the Chancery, Islamabad, the Guest House where the “Code Pink” peace delegation stayed. He joined me for breakfast on that first morning of my visit and on several occasions thereafter, when I was the first to sit in the dining area. He explained that prior to 2001 and the start of the “war on terror” Pakistan’s economy was in much better shape. There were manufacturing and other jobs enough to employ eight breadwinners in his family. He said that the U.S. “war on terror” subsequent to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan had transcended the border of Pakistan. He said that since 2001 this had caused the violent death of over 40,000 Pakistani citizens and had near totally destabilized Pakistan’s infrastructure. Eleven years later his family has to suffice on the income of only two of the eight who are still employed. Although he knew that my government was the primary culprit responsible for the problems affecting his country he also understood that there were forces inside his government that were complicit. Many times throughout our stay, including on the eve of my departure, he thanked me for taking a stand against the Drone Attacks and said that the work that we were doing there was of great importance to the people of Pakistan  

            As I was taking a seat in the boarding area waiting for my flight to Dubai the first leg of my return home I happened to catch the glance of a 23-year-old man named Sayed. He motioned that I should join him in the seat next to his, so I complied. He told me that he was on his way to Italy where he held a job as a courier.  He said that it was very difficult for him to leave his newlywed wife but that employment was scarce and he was supporting his mother and father as well as other members of his family.

            Sayed took great interest in the fact that I was from “Amrica” and asked me many questions about life in the U.S. He asked me if I had any children and was saddened to learn that my son was living thousands of miles away from me.  He said that when we are little children our parents look after us, taking care of all our needs. He insisted that it is our duty when we grow older to be close to them to return that loving care. It made me lament my own failings as a son and the great distance that I had moved from my own parents, Peace be upon them.

            He asked me what had brought me to Pakistan. I showed him some photos that I had taken at the Peace Rally including one of me standing beside Imran Khan.[iv] I then said, “drone hamle band karo” (stop drones attacks in Urdu).  He smiled brightly, thanked me for my bravery, and thanked me for caring for the innocent people who are threatened daily by the Drone attacks and for those who have lost their lives. Although this was a common response from Pakistanis upon learning of our mission I do not feel that brave. At no point in our journey did I feel threatened.

            He was most concerned, however, with my perceptions of Pakistan. When I told him that I found the people to be gentle, generous, and most respectful he seemed to be quite overjoyed.  He asked that I please tell “Amrica” how I was treated, that Pakistanis are not terrorists, and that Americans should come to Pakistan to visit. It’s a big job because fear obfuscates understanding and paves the way for an unquestioning acceptance of the arrogance of militarism. I am up to the task so therefore I heartily agreed.

“What Law? What Law In the World Allows for a Fourteen Year-old to Be Held Indefinitely?”

            What law indeed? One might think the question rhetorical if she or he had not seen the face of the man proposing it or had not heard his story. It seemed touching but sad that the men assembled that night in the brightly colored tent would find hope in our little group. We had just left a large rally cum-press-conference held by Pakistani Tehreek-E-Insaf (the Party of Justice) at the opulent Islamabad Ramada Hotel. The press conference was held with great fanfare as a public kick-off of the “March to Kotkai South Waziristan”, the great public protest in opposition to U.S. drone strikes, those extrajudicial killings, the assassinations by winged robots that our group had traveled halfway around the earth to attend. But we also came all that distance to bear witness to the suffering caused by those machines and the misnamed “war on terror” of which they are but an instrument.  The men who had been patiently waiting for hours to speak with us represented seven of thirty-seven families who are suffering “because of those who have no conscience”. They were to have had a press conference held for them earlier in the day. It was postponed and they were told they had to wait till tomorrow. And so they got us.

            The men all have family members who are currently indefinitely imprisoned at Bagram Air Force Base. The recently touted release of prisoners (around 3000) to the Afghan government has no bearing on their situation. The “release” was a proforma release in that it only assigned an “administrative” authority to the Afghans, the control of the prison actually remaining in the hands of the U.S. with the U.S. having complete authority of all new arrestees (over 600 so far) imprisoned after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) instituting the “release”. But more specifically their loved ones are Pakistani so their fait falls outside the limited authority granted by that document. They are in limbo, in the vernacular they are up the creek.

            Hamidullah Khan, the son of the man proposing the above question, was only 14 when he disappeared 2008. His family had moved to Karachi from Kotkai in South Waziristan to escape the military action that was going on there. Hamidullah was home from school for summer holidays. He and a friend, Khairullah, traveled by bus to Dera Ismail Khan on the border of Waziristan. His father would have gone along but he could not get time off from his public employee job. Hamidullah was intending on going on to the family’s home in Kotkai to retrieve some of the belongings that had been left behind when the family moved. He asked Khairullah to remain in Dera Ismail Khan and wait for him. That was the last time that Khairullah saw his friend.

            Hamidullah’s mother, Din Roza is desperate for his return. She has fasted every day since his disappearance. The lack of nourishment has caused her to develop crippling chronic health problems including diminishing eyesight. She woke up in the middle of the night on October 2nd frantically repeating a nightmare. She had seen Bagram burning and her son perishing in the flames. At the time her husband spoke to us she was still inconsolable.

            Hamidullah’s father sold their house to have the funds to look for his son. He traveled as far as Khost, Afghanistan searching for answers or clues to his son’s whereabouts.  A year later he was searching in Peshawar and someone told him to contact International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He did and a couple of months later the ICRC said his son was in Bagram prison.

            The detainees are held without charges. When they are brought to Bagram, they undergo a sixty day period of interrogation prior to being visited by the ICRC where they are held in conditions designed to break their will. These conditions include sleep depravation, extreme temperatures, taunting, and physical abuse. We were told of cells containing water up to the detainees calf where he spends weeks during this period.  They then each undergo a review by a military officer once every six months. The detainees’ attorneys are not permitted to enter Bagram. They are denied access to their clients and have to participate via videoconference.  Once every two months detainees are allowed a video conferencing call from their families via the ICRC. The families have to travel great distance to Islamabad at their own expense to participate. Often the call does not get through. When they do get through the detainee is not allowed to speak of his capture, how he got to Bagram, or of the conditions that they are living under. To do so would risk punishment of loosing his call privileges or worse (i.e. solitary confinement).

            Several of the family members thanked us from the bottom of their hearts. One asked a favor. He said “my brother is one year older than I am and he has spent 11 years in indefinite detention and my whole family is heartbroken because we don’t understand what he’s done and what he’s being punished for.” He then pleaded for us to meet and raise the issue with the Prime Minister because, “the Prime Minister seems to be in a very far place that I am not allowed access to”.  He asked us to go and raise the issue with our head of state (what to tell this poor fellow) as well. He repeated, “Because we are desperate for help”.

            The press conference that they were expecting earlier was superseded by the gala one that we had just previously attended. The person responsible for theirs was also one of the leaders of the other. Schedules clash and sometimes adjustments are unavoidable. But the weak always seem to get trampled on. Sometimes that trampling takes the form of benign neglect. I am not finding fault with those who have done works that dwarf my own. I just wish that these gentle suffering souls had the stage that we had a couple of hours earlier and that their voice could be heard by those inaccessible powers “in very far places”. In the very least I hope they got their promised press conference the following day.

Aafia Siddiqui - A Mother Tortured

“My only question to the American Ambassador would be, what worse torture can there be than separating a mother from her children? You don’t have to beat a mother or anything, it’s the worse thing you can do, making her believe that her children are being tortured.” – Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui,[v]

            Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui is an award winning medical doctor, a graduate of Harvard, and a former Director the Epilepsy Program at John Hopkins University. On the evening of October 3rd , in a voice infused with love for her sister Aafia, she shared the story of a real life nightmare so hideous in its brutality and all-consuming in its longevity that works of fiction pale in comparison. The nightmare is the true-life story of the abuse of her sister.

            Eyes sparkling with admiration and love Dr. Fowzia related the story of young Aafia, a valedictorian, a student of “strait A” proficiency and great promise. She told us of Affia’s love of animals. This love was to be tested on a couple occasions when she brought home rabid dogs because they were sick and needed her care. Though these acts resulted in her having to undergo the painful experience of rabies treatment they did not dissuade her from caring for animals and she became the founder of the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals in Karachi, Pakistan.

            Aafia moved to the U.S. in 1990 when she turned eighteen to attend the University of Houston. While there she won a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and transferred there to win a bachelors degree in biology in 1995. While in Boston she volunteered at the Martin Luther King School where she received awards for her community service. She also took part in a humanitarian effort to send clothing and supplies to women and children suffering in the Bosnian war. Fowzia tearfully asked, “Does this make her a terrorist? Would that not be missionary work? Would she not be a missionary? And, sometimes I ask the question maybe that’s what they would have called her if she were not Muslim.”

            Aafia went on from MIT to attend Brandies University where she earned her Masters Degree in Education and her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience. While at Brandies she taught a second grade class. Her principle interest was in helping developmentally impaired children and her work helped advance methods of education that allowed those children to lead productive lives. Dr. Fowzia told us her sister’s “dream was to bring an educational change to Pakistan. She thought the core of the problems in Pakistan was the inefficient education system.”

            The abuse of Aafia started as domestic. In 1995 while attending MIT she was married, in a traditional arranged marriage to Mohammad Amjad Khan, a Pakistani doctor. While living in Boston, Aafia gave birth to their first two children Ahmed in 1996 and Mariam in 1998. To this day Aafia remains a citizen of Pakistan while Ahmed and Mariam are U.S. citizens by birth. Though she enjoyed the fruits of her academic success and her children were a joy to her, her marriage to Dr. Khan was evidently an unhappy one. According to Dr. Thomas Kucharski, a Psychologist who evaluated Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in 2009, Amjad Khan had admitted to at least one incident of domestic abuse, and that two of Aafia’s former professors at Brandies made statements that they had seen bruises on her face. Witness testimony obtained by the Human Rights organization International Justice Network describe a incident in June 2000 in which Dr. Amjad Khan threw a glass milk bottle at Aafia while she was holding their daughter Mariam. The injury is corroborated by photographs of Aafia taken several days later showing her with a deep cut across her face.[vi]

            Dr. Aafia, Dr. Amjad Khan, and their children returned to Karachi, Pakistan in June 2002. The abuse spread to Dr. Aafia’s family, possibly culminating in the death of Dr. Aafia’s father. Witnesses claim he died of a heart attack shortly after being pushed by Dr. Amjad.  A few days later, while Dr. Aafia was pregnant with their third child Suleman, Amjad left them and immediately married another woman. His divorce from Aafia was not executed until many months later. [vii]

Around the 30th of March 2003 Aafia left her home in Karachi with her three children reportedly on their way to Islamabad to visit a maternal uncle. She never made it. Dr. Fowzia Siddiiqui explained, “She never got to Islamabad, disappeared as if from the surface of the earth.”

On the behest of the FBI, Dr. Aafia had apparently been picked up by Imran Shaukut, the Superintendant of Police for Sindh Province and turned over to the ISI.[viii] On March 31st, 2003 it was reported by the Pakistani media that Aafia had been arrested and turned over to representatives of the U.S.

Fowzia recalled, “My mother got very upset. And, the minute that she got upset and wanted to make some noise suddenly there were people at our doorstep we get calls, ‘Keep quiet, if you raise any noise four bodies will be at your doorstep.’”

A few weeks later as she was doing her rounds at the hospital Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui saw her sister’s picture on MSNBC News, with Tom Brokaw. She said that her legs gave way from under her but after composing herself she called her brother who then taped the show. They later called their mother. Dr. Fowzia continued, “my mother said, [excitedly] ‘hush, hush, don’t tape Aafia’s name. She’ll die.’ But it was on the news so we contacted the Pakistani officials, the embassy and all, and we are told that she is no longer in the custody of the Pakistani authorities, that she has been flown to the U.S.”

The family hired lawyers in the U.S. but to no avail. They were afforded no information concerning the whereabouts or condition of Aafia and the children. Dr. Fowzia said,  “I was reassured in court under oath by an FBI agent. His name that he swore under was Michael Yetter. He said that, ‘I can assure you that she’s alive and well but please don’t get emotional and don’t make a hewn cry of that.’ They kind of led me to believe that her [Aafia’s ex] husband was involved in some sinister things and that she [Aafia] was involved in some kind of witness protection.My friends here in Pakistan said ‘Hey, look Fowzia she is in American custody be thankful for that. You know, they’re more humane than us Pakistanis’.”           

Five years went by with no word from or about Aafia and her children. Rumors had led the family to believe that they were dead. Then in July of 2008 Yvonne Ridley, a British human rights investigative journalist who was captured by the Taliban then released, approached Dr. Fowzia with information that she obtained interviewing Guantanamo and Bagram prisoners that placed her sister in the prison at Bagram Air Force Base. They called her ‘Prisoner 650’. Dr. Fowzia then explained that Yvonne Ridley had also approached Imran Khan with the prisoners’ stories. Mr. Khan then arranged a press conference where Ms. Ridley exposed Aafia’s plight. Dr. Fowzia said, “I’m indebted to him for that”.

Dr. Fowzia continued, “You should have seen the messages, the phone calls, the threats. I will be left without a mother. My children will be left without a mother. We live in Karachi and the threats were phenomenal, if I dared to speak out. That is when I had a choice, to speak out on the chance that my sister might still be alive and risk everything that is precious to me, or to keep silent. That is when I made the choice and there is a lot of brave people that I have to thank. Here is one of them [she reaches out to Joe Lombardo the founder and leader of the United National Antiwar Coalition and member of our delegation].

Ms. Tahira Abdullah is a Pakistani development worker and human rights activist. She can best be described as fiery and vociferous. If I were to compare Ms. Tahira with anyone in U.S. history, I would be inclined to compare her favorably with Mother Mary Jones. I can visualize Ms. Tahira marching to face off the militia as it approached the Colorado coalfields, bringing scabs to break a union miners strike. She interjected at this moment, “She was the only woman in thousands of men prisoners and her screams and her shouts could be heard far and wide. She was known as the ‘shouting woman of Bagram’ because she knew that she was the only woman there. And all these men, she had no privacy for her shower. She had no privacy for her changing. She had no privacy for sleeping. She was in thousands and thousands of men. And, in Pakistani society and in Afghan society this is simply unacceptable. Our culture does not permit this.”

Dr. Fowzia continued, “When I spoke up what happened? Nothing happened to me. Nothing happened to my children. What did happen is that Aafia was found wandering, a dazed Aafia, a battered Aafia, was found in Ghazni, Afghanistan and shot.” FBI agents came to the Siddiqui home and reported that Aafia was found and had been shot twice in the abdomen. She had been returned to Bagram prison where she was treated for her wounds and flown to the United States where she was charged with several counts of attempted murder.

Again Dr. Fowzia, “She was there treated and in the same oozing condition she was flown to the U.S. And, over there she was then indicted and charged for attempt to murder. She is the one who is shot but the charge against her is attempt to murder U.S. personnel [military], two FBI agents, three U.S. Marshals, two interpreters [one of which shot her]. Now here is the thing that I don’t understand, do you remember the OJ case? He was acquitted because a glove didn’t fit. Right?  Here Aafia is a U.S. graduate a MIT graduate. Those are English speaking people where are the interpreters? They don’t fit!“[As are many Pakistanis, Aafia was raised to speak English as well as Urdu.]

            Again Tahira speaks up, “And, she’s all of four feet eleven inches and she’s all of one hundred pounds in weight and these U.S. soldiers are you know hulking big……..

            Dr. Fowzia breaks in, “they’re trained in weaponry and she snatches a gun from them a rifle, a M4 rifle which has security catches? She opens fire in a crowded room with all these people? She misses completely? [There is no evidence of bullets from a M4 rifle having struck anything in the room.] Then she, in-turn, gets shot by the interpreter. She is taken and then is charged count one for attempting to shoot U.S. Army personnel. There was seven charges. Nowhere, nowhere was she charged with any crime of terrorism. There were no fingerprints found on the gun. The forensic report said the gun was never fired. Yet she’s convicted.”

Ms. Tahira explains, “It’s a combination. After 9/11/2001, the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security regulations and rules, everything has gone out the window. You know the much touted, the world famous U.S. justice system, the jury system, the legal system, everything has been thrown out the window by the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security, the so-called “war against terror” which is bad English and bad, bad, bad thinking……. It does not matter whether it is a Republican administration or a Democratic administration it’s exactly the same. Excuse me for being so frank and blunt. It’s the Pentagon that runs the policy. It’s the Pentagon that runs the Homeland Security, and the national security, and the Patriot act and all of that. It’s not the civilian government or the Congress that runs your country any more just the same as it’s the ISI and the military presence running Pakistan.”

Ms. Tahira “Mother Jones” Abdullah may not be far from correct. Consider these statements made by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Lewis, Special Operations Chair, Marine Corps University, early in his presentation to the 2011 IDGA Special Operations Summit. The Colonel starts by speaking of another conference that he attended a couple of weeks earlier, “An Eastern European officer and I, after we talked about radicalization and assimilation up in Dearborn, Michigan, we talked about the challenges of the Muslim faith assimilating into American culture. This officer said, ‘this is very, very interesting. I think it’s very important but it’s not my job. This what the civilians do and this what they think about and I just work for the civilians. So as a military officer it’s not my problem’……. Well, my first response to that was, ‘well that’s nice’ [spoken facetiously]. But then as I thought a little bit more, that’s a luxury that he has that we don’t have!Our military is going to be and will be involved in all aspects of preventing, resolving, and conducting conflict.”

Colonel Lewis then gives us a clue to where policy originates. “Another opportunity that I have in my position is taking a look at our future leaders in Washington. This is something that if you’re from the DC area, you’ve been there often, you’ve seen a lot of our current leaders don’t have time to think. Where they’re at, if focused right now, is on problems of national policy. That will be it. No time to think. It’s a process that just continues to roll. But we take guys off the train. We sit them down and we force them to think a little…. The challenge that they have right now is that they have got this concept of operation, [Mike quoting politician] ‘I’ve got this complex interactive set of systems that you’re talking about, I’ve got the human terrain. I think I understand all that. But, I don’t know how to translate all that into military financial orders.” [I’m sure the Colonel was more than happy to instruct the “future leader.” What was candidate Obama forced to think?]                 

Pashtunwali - Code of A People Targeted by Robot Assassins

The Pashtun people since before recorded time have lived in that area south of the Hindu Kush that is today southeast Afghanistan and the northwest area of Pakistan now called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (e.g. North Waziristan and South Waziristan). It is in the Pakistani part of this area that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as part of the war in Afghanistan and the U.S. “war on terror”, is carrying out what has been euphemistically called Targeted Killing but more accurately amounts to Extra-Judicial Execution or Assassination. The assassin’s instrument of choice is the Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle. The targets of assassination are suspected militants or insurgents. The only criterion necessary for the classification of “suspected militant” is that of being male, of military age and living in the territory. According to a recent report titled “Living Under Drones” by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (HRCRC) at Stanford / New York University: “The number of ‘high-level’ targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low – estimated at just 2%.” 

What is it about a people that could make their male population the target for assassination solely for being of military age? Maybe a reading of the code that has defined these people for millennia will clarify. Pashtunwali is the tribal code of life of the Pashtun people. Defining the Pashtun lifestyle, it is the basis of all interactions inside and outside both the family and the tribe. It has served as the antidote to fear that has allowed them to repel invasions of imperial colonial occupations from Alexander the Great through the Soviet Union on to the United States of America’s “war on terror”. Its nine basic principles are as follows.

1.     Ghayrat (self honor and dignity) – Pashtuns must maintain their human dignity. Honor is of the greatest importance.

2.     Imandari (righteousness) – A Pashtun must strive always toward thinking good thoughts, speaking good words, and doing good deeds. A Pashtun behaves respectfully to all of creation: people, the animals, and the earth. Pollution is against Pashtunwali.

3.     Melmastia (hospitality) – Pashtuns are widely considered some of the most generous hosts in the world, showing profound respect for and showering hospitality on visitors regardless of their race, religion, national origin, or economic status. They will do this to great extents often at the cost to their own household and without hope for remuneration or favor.

4.     Nanawatai (asylum) - Derived from the verb meaning to enter, nanawatai is protection given to a person who requests shelter from his or her enemies. This protection is given at all costs. Under nanawatai people running from the law must be given this protection until the situation is clarified. It can also be exercised as a form of “chivalrous” surrender when a vanquished party seeks sanctuary in his enemy’s house.

5.     Badal (justice) – To seek justice or take revenge against wrongdoers whether the wrong was committed yesterday or many years ago if the wronging party still exists. A mere taunt  (“Paighor”) could be regarded as an insult which can be settled only with the shedding of the offender’s or his next closest male relation’s blood if the offender is not available. This can lead to blood feuds that involve whole tribes and can last generations until settled.

6.     Tureh (bravery)  - A Pashtun must always stand brave against tyranny and defend his land, family, and women from incursions as well as defend the honor of his name.

7.     Sabat (loyalty) – To the Pashtun, loyalty to one’s family, friends, and tribe members is a must. A Pashtun can never be disloyal as this brings utter shame upon them and their family.

8.     Isteqamat (Trust in God) – Trusting in one Creator (known as “Allah” in Arabic and “Khudai” in Pashto) is central to their Islamic belief.

9.     Namus (Honor of Women) – A Pashtun must defend the honor of Pashtun women at all costs protecting them from vocal and physical harm. Pashtun society is extremely restricted in this respect with rigid rules segregating men and women.  A Pashtun man would never talk about their female relatives including their mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters. Women strictly observe “purdah” (the wearing of the veil) and mostly stay at home – not leaving unless accompanied by a male - except when they are working in the fields.[ix]

            Having established the defining character of a people targeted for assassination it may be useful to place such character within the context of the policy, the policy makers, and the agenda that schedules them for Extrajudicial Execution.

            Simply explaining these actions as lawful extension of the war effort in Afghanistan to stop cross border militants from attacking or supporting the attack U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan will fail even the most casual exercise of international legal jurisprudence. Documented evidence depicting the targeting of civilians as “suspected insurgents”, attacks on private homes, Mosques, wedding parties, and rescue teams, portray punishable violations of international laws including the Rules of Land Warfare, International Humanitarian Law, the Geneva Conventions, and the United Nations Charter.  This is the reason that the Central Intelligence Agency is the prime agent executing this policy. The agency has always enjoyed a shroud of secrecy protecting it from any scrutiny that might uncover illegal and unconstitutional excesses. This protection even extends as high as the U.S. Supreme Court whose decisions have allowed the U.S. government to deny such a program even exists.

            Pashtuns by their adherence the principles Ghayrat (self honor and dignity), Nanawatai (asylum), Badal (justice), Tureh (bravery), Sabat (loyalty), and Isteqamat (Trust in God) have always been successful at repelling invaders. The invading armies have always been mortal however. The use of robot weaponry could be seen as, in words that I’ve heard repeated in military industrial conferences, a “game changer”. This “game changer’s” apparent ability to be immune to the conventional forms of resistance practiced over the centuries by the people of this region gives the invader a strategic advantage. These soulless winged assassins strike fear into the hearts of the people of the tribal areas. We were told by a group of men visiting with us from the region that their families and neighbors live in fear daily. They told us of the 24-hour 7 days per week circling of drones over their communities. They shared stories and photos of family members and neighbors killed by these weapons. Many of the killed are women, children, and the aged. We also learned that many of those surviving death were afflicted by wounds that would not heal, possibly due to the chemical makeup of the explosive charges in the Hellfire missiles that they fell victims to. They told us of mass migrations of Pashtun tribes people from their historic homelands to cities outside the tribal areas. They spoke of phenomenal increases in cases mental illness due to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder inflicted upon their communities.

            How does one raised in the tradition of Badal answer these semiautonomous demons sent forth by the world’s lone super power? In the vernacular of the Pentagon they will commit acts of “Asymmetric Warfare”. “Asymmetric Warfare” can be defined as warfare by means outside of the conventional. Acts of “terrorism” carried out on U.S. institutions and on those who fraternize with such institutions fall under this rubric.

            In November of 2011 I heard Navy Captain Gregory Maguire, theConcept Division Chief of the UAS [Unmanned Aircraft Systems / drones] Joint Center of Excellence at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, speak as a keynote speaker at the IDGA UAV Summit West. The title of his address was “Unmanned Aircraft Systems In Current and future Operations”. In his lecture he applauded the work that industry, academia, and the military had done to date in developing these drone systems. He credited the late Admiral Arthur Cebrowski, the former Director of the Office of Force Transformation, under Donald Rumsfeld’s Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), as being the genius behind the doctrinal changes that brought these weapon systems into the military’s arsenal.

One of the defining documents authored by Admiral Cebrowski concerning these doctrinal changes is an article published in the 13th of January 2003 issue of “Transformation Trends” a publication of the Department of Force Transformation, OSD. The article titled “The American Way of War” charts a doctrinal change that refocuses the military’s attention away from fighting competing nation states “toward an embrace of a more sharply focused global cop role: we increasingly specialize in neutralizing bad people who do bad things.” The following quotes from the document should put the argument that these drone weapons are necessary components of the “war on terror” in context. “In short, the rise of asymmetrical warfare is largely our own creation [emphasis mine]. We are creating the mismatch in means as we increasingly extend the reach of our warfighting machine down the range of conflict—past the peer competitor, past the rogue nation-state, right down to individual enemy combatants….Again, the rise of antiaccess strategies by our opponents is largely our own creation [emphasis mine], as we try to maintain a capacity to reverse significant acts of aggression within a security system we seek to administer like an empire [emphasis mine], but one based on shared values rather than imposed order.” Whose values are shared in a system administered “like an empire”? Surely not Pashtunwali, not the values of these tribes people, or of the average Pakistanis that I met.

Discussing The Question of War

            Ambassador Akram Zaki served as Pakistan’s ambassador to China, USA, Nigeria, and Philippines and rose to the position of Secretary General with the rank of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Zaki was the chairman of a conference held on October 2nd  concerning the subject of Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles. The session, sponsored by the Institute of Policy Studies[x], was a roundtable discussion that included in active participation: Pakistani intellectuals, members of the Pakistani foreign policy and national security community, other concerned Pakistani citizens, as well as members of the Code Pink Peace Delegation.

            Welcoming us in his opening remarks the Ambassador said, “Even in the West there are still people with conscience and we welcome them to Pakistan, the land which is suffering because of those who have no conscience.”

            Later in his remarks he further clarified this by saying, “I was very upset when I said that about people with conscience. I know there are many people in the West with conscience. These are those who have taken the initiative to come here. But certainly, at the policy level neither in our country [Pakistan] nor in yours are there people with conscience, because one issue that has been raised is are we discussing only these vehicles or are we discussing the question of war. I think a peaceful worlds objective should be to work for elimination of war. Humanity has been making efforts in the 20th century especially. We have heard slogans like ‘the war to end all wars’. We have seen the Pactin 1938 to outlaw war. We have seen the U.N. charter, which says that the use of force or the threat of force is illegal, which all countries have signed. And yet all those commitments and documents are violated and that is why I said that the Bush era was the era of illegality because the instruments that have been worked out with so much effort by leaders of mankind who wanted peace have been violated one after another.”

            Earlier during the introductions, retired United States Army Colonel Ann Wright said, “It [the Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle system] is a weapon system that is being used by the President of the United States as his personal execution device. It is our President of the United States, a constitutional lawyer who has a list on his desk and every Tuesday [as reported in an investigative report in the New York Times] [xi] he makes a decision on who lives and dies of the border areas of your country.”

            The Honorable Ambassador punctuated his remarks saying,  “And now the right to kill as you yourself has said, your President decides who to kill. So he’s become the Chief Executioner”.

            Ambassador Akram Zakigoes on to say, “These, the principles of the Charter (United Nations), The principles of noninterference, non-use-of-force should also be emphasized when we are opposing special types of weapons. There is no doubt in my mind that when the system of these vehicles was initiated there was a connivance of our government [the Pervez Musharrafgovernment]. And the subsequent government [the Asif Ali Zardari government], as a result of negotiations and compromises, has endorsed that policy and the continuation of that policy and that is why the protests [of the Zardari government] are only proforma protests…

….I think you need a stronger coalition, a global coalition, if you want to oppose the drones.”

            I believe that Honorable Ambassador Zaki is correct in asserting that the instruments of world peace have largely been worked out and are in existence. But the execution these instruments as means to a just world peace is made superfluous by systemic structural features designed into the United Nations at the time of its creation by powerful interests as a means to guarantee maintenance of their hegemony. If a just world peace is to be obtained it can only be through reforming that institution, making it more democratic and responsible for enforcing its own charter. Because of this the institution by default presently promotes the agenda of bully nations.

Proforma Democracy

            The Honorable Ambassador’s comments in reference to the proforma protest of the Drone program within the current Pakistani government is applicable to policy making processes within our own government. We are taught in school, in our civics and U.S. Government classes, that we have an institutionalized system of civilian governance via the Department of Defense (DoD) that exercises control over our military forces. However, what we are not given is the answer to the question: who are the civilians making policy decisions?

            The search for answers to this question led me toan organization known asthe Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).The IDGA holds conferences on the behest of DoD, the Defense Advanced Projects Administration (DARPA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as university research institutions. Topics covered include U.S. policy, military doctrine, intelligence, strategy, weapon systems, and procurement. In attendance are department heads representing the DoD and the DHS, Field Grade Officers and above representing the uniformed services, members of the “intelligence community’, as well asengineers, scientists, and executives representing U.S. military weapons contractors (e.g. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon etc.). These conferences are exclusive in that generally prohibit the attendance of members of the press and their registration fees are outside the budget of ordinary citizens (I have paid on average $1600 a conference to attend).  

            Using my credentials as a representative of my career discipline, instrumentation and control systems engineering, I have attended seven of these over the last two years. What I have discovered is a system of private industrial and commercial interests that authors, directs, and executes U.S. foreign and military policy. The exercise of and direction of this nation’s extreme powers of violence have fallen into the hands of entities whose interest in monetary gain fall outside the restraints of those governing documents spoken of by the Honorable Ambassador. The governance of the military powers of the United States including those of its intelligence agencies (e.g. the CIA) have become as proforma democratic as the Drone killings have become extrajudicial execution. The following two quotes were recorded by me at the IDGA Special Operations Summit held in Tampa, Florida on December 13, 2011.

Michael Lumpkin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Special Operations / Low Intensity Conflict said, “Fifteen years ago Predator was a technology looking for a mission. My-Space hadn’t been invented let alone Face Book. We just don’t know what we don’t know…. What we need to do is make sure we are outing Industry with operators.[xii] And I ask industry to understand what the operators need or the environment. Because the operators just don’t always know what they need. I keep an open door to industry [emphasis mine]. I want people to come in and educate me on a regular basis. I probably have 5 or 6 industry meetings a week. I encourage all of you to swing by and contact my office and come see me. I’ll give everybody between 30 and 45 minutes to understand. Don’t sell me something. Educate me [emphasis mine]. Then we can help shape if we if we get something we did not know, which is in the real realm of the possible then we can go ahead and write a requirement through CTTSO.[xiii] Streamline the acquisition process to get things done[emphasis mine]. Which is the great process that we’re working with SOCCOM (U.S. Special Operations Command).

They are killing innocent people! Malik Khan Speaks.

            Karim Khan a Waziri Malik who lost his own son and younger brother to a US Drone attack was one of several men from Waziristan who spoke with us concerning these attacks on their tribal villages.  He relates his story and his tribes below.

            “We the people of the tribal group are facing very difficult problems. First of all, I would like to to say to you people that the tribal group is a territory of the sovereign state which name is Pakistan. And, it’s not part of Afghanistan. We the tribal people are Pakistani.

            So, America when it came and attacked Afghanistan they had their bad list. So, [the Americans] started to attack our people by drone aeroplanes. I think the American people are telling a lie to everyone and everywhere.

            And, these drone attacks they attack my house. There they killed, it was 31st of December 2009 and they said that they killed a number of Al Qaeda terrorists. But in fact, in this drone attack there was only three persons, one is my beloved son ZaheenullahThe other is my younger brother Iqbal and the third one is a mason by profession. He was constructing a Mosque for our village. So, they killed there three persons. Iqbal was a public servant in the education department [a schoolteacher who had returned to their ancestral village, shortly after finishing his master's degree in English literature, because he believed education was vital for his tribe's future]. He got his masters degree from NIMA. NIMAis a university here in Islamabad. And, my sonZaheenullah? He memorized the holy Qur‘an by heart. From the same capital Islamabad and he was also a government servant in the same department, the Education Department. He was in security staff [he helped out at another government school in the area].

            So they killed these two persons and the third one was a mason.  They killed these and they say ‘We killed Haji Omar’. After some months they announced in another drone attack, they announced they killed the same person named Haji Omar. And, after some months they announced once again that ‘We killed Haji Omar’. We are astonished and we wonder whether a man has one death or several deaths? A man has one life or several lives?

            In another drone attack, which is in our own village, one guy his age at the time was 12 years old, he lost both his legs and one eye. And his uncle was paralyzed, his lower body was paralyzed. He was a driver by profession. In a truck accident he was injured and his lower part was paralyzed. He was in a wheel chair for six years. So, he was also killed in the same drone attack. And, his cousin killed. He was also a driver. And, his son was killed, who was serving him. So, they said that ‘We killed a commander named Ilias Kashmiri ‘. I think maybe he’s alive till now. And after these deaths in another drone strike they say that ‘We killed Ilias Kashmiri ‘. And in another couple of months they announced that ‘We killed Ilias Kashmiri ‘ in another drone strike. And, after several times they announced this. But I think he’s alive till now.

            And, the people who kill in these drone attacks are announcing that ‘we killed Al Qaeda terrorists or Taliban terrorists’. But, in fact they are not Al Qaeda people, they are not Al Qaeda member. They are not Taliban member. They are native people.

            In another case, this case took part in the same part of North Waziristan near Miram Shah City. The name of the village is Datta KhelIn this drone attack there was a baby, a child ten months. Ten months! And, her mother killed in the drone strike. And they announced that ‘We killed foreigners, terrorists’. Not terrorists! But, in fact I know them. They are from my tribe, Waziri Tribe. A baby of ten months, I think she is not able to walk, she always ride in what we say, is cradle. And, she can’t do anything, any terrorist acts. But, they said that ‘We killed terrorists’. And her mother they killed her mother also.

            So, there was another case in Mir Ali. The father, he was a government employee in the education department. He was a headmaster in a middle school. His two sons, I think their ages are not more than ten or eight years, they were just like flowers. They killed them. They killed them and they announced that ‘We killed terrorists’.

            So in every drone strike there the people killed, they are the baby, people and not terrorists! And, we have proof. So they are killing our Muslim people, our innocent people, our tribal people, and they are living in Pakistan not in Afghanistan. There is a battle. There are difficulties. There are problems between your world and the Taliban in Afghanistan not in Pakistan. In Pakistan our territory is a peaceful territory. It is calm and peaceful. And, the American people are the only one to disturb this territory, to disturb peace and stability of the territory. So they are attacking this area, only to disturb the peace of the area. So, most of the drone strikes, they are killing ordinary people and announcing: ‘We are killing terrorists and Al Qaeda members’ but in fact it’s clear lie.

            I lost my son and my brother. They were government employee and Iqbal was doing his duty. He didn’t take part in any terrorist acts. He will do his own duty! He can’t take part in any terrorist acts! For example, if someone do or take part in these terrorist acts he has to go and enter Afghanistan and do something because the Armed Forces are in Afghanistan. So if he doesn’t come to his duty then he will be terminated.

            So, the situation is very bad in our area. Because when there is a drone, and we the tribal people are seeing it all 24 hours. It is circling in our airspace, in the Tribal Areas. We know what they want! We know what they want, to attack any house! They attack it! No one stop them! No one say any word! No one raise their voice! Against this they are killing innocent people. Our trade, our education, everything there is disturbed by this drone attack.

            Because in any part of the world there is difficulties where there is war, there is attacking of missiles, then the whole area is facing these problems [see alsso Fakar and Sayed]. Some people left the area [these are internally displaced war refugees and victims of the U.S. War On Terror] and resettled for example in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Peshawar. Our kids they are in different parts of Pakistan.

They are killing innocent people!”

            Paki, one of the members of our delegation asked him, “If there were an international court that was to hear these cases would that be sufficient, if they [the parties responsible for the drone attacks] were found guilty by an international court [of crimes against humanity], not by the U.S.?” Malik Khan replied, “You know, International court is not for Muslims, Its for non Muslims.  International court is not for Muslims it’s for non Muslims! [emphasis his] You know Bagramprison, Bagramhere in Afghanistan. They offered rice for the prisoners there in Afghanistan in Bagram jail. They cut glass in small pieces and they mixed it with the rice. And they feed this to the people who were in jail. Everyone, when they wake up [holds his belly] they went uuuhhhhh, problem in their belly. They feel pain. So they were given tablets and after this everyone has TB. There are laws but I can’t go there only the State will do anything here a person cannot. But these laws are only made for non Muslims not for Muslims. If these laws are made for everyone then they don’t see the situation? They don’t see the situation in Palestine? They don’t see the situation in Kashmir? They don’t see the situation in Sudan? They don’t see the situation in the Central Asian States? Why don’t they do something for these people? Its only for non Muslims not for Muslims.”

Considering the weight and truth of the Honorable Ambassador’s above quote (“We have seen the U.N. charter which says that the use of force or the threat of force is illegal, which all countries have signed. And yet all those commitments and documents are violated”) I cannot personally fault the good Malik for his reaction.

Anthony Quartararo, the President & CEO, Spatial Networks, Inc. of Clearwater, Florida, a private contract firm that supplies Geo-Intelligence data to government and industry, spoke at the Special Operations Summit held by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement on December 14th, 2011.  He showed a map of Pakistan that he claimed contained the location of every Mosque. He bragged of having indigenous agents placed throughout Pakistan to identify Imams who made “threatening” statements concerning the West and to identify individuals and groups of individuals as terror suspects. When asked how he verified that his agents told him the truth he spoke of various metrics and algorithms but punctuated those by saying that he did not tell his agents the truth on how their information was going to be used.

In my hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska there is a fundamentalist Christian church with an electronic sign that at times be said to be the purveyor of hateful messages. Some of these have been directed at Muslim nations.  One of these signs contained the message, “Violets are blue. Roses are red. Nuke Sadam and stab him in the head.” During the Iraq war one of this church’s busses was adorned with a mockup of a 50 cal. machinegun nest complete with a camouflaged gunman.  If Malik Karim Khan obtained an Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicle system, would he be justified in using it to strike this church? The good Malik was asked a question quite similar to this by Toby, a member of the delegation. He responded that he would not take the lives of innocent people.

Of Fear and Loathing With Charge d'affaires Dick

            “NO FEAR” the bold white lettering shouted from shoulder blade to shoulder blade across the backs of the “Elite Punjab Police” as they accompanied the great procession from Islamabad to the Al-Amin Farms Hathala near Dera Ismail Khan then accompanied our Peace Delegation to Mianwali on its return from the historic Waziristan Peace Rally to Islamabad. Fear when not recognized and addressed as fear itself can produce a dichotomy of reactions. One set, the panic reaction from apparent impending doom, can cause the instinctive reactions of paralysis, fight, or flight. The other is more dubious. Its trappings are made of historical prejudice and handed down generation to generation.  Like the cultural equivalent to genetics this fear has been inscribed in our collective subconscious by imperialism, colonialism, and racism. Unrecognized, it hinders the mind from exercising critical thought and promotes the programmed acceptance of even the most destructive forms of civil, political, and militarist abuse.

            United States Charge d'affaires [acting Ambassador], Richard “call me Dick” Hoagland’s office is in a maximum-security compound that resembles the hateful Qualandia checkpoint in the West Bank more than it does a place of goodwill befitting a proper Embassy.  He left his protective enclave to visit with us a few days prior to our “March to Waziristan”. After introductions Medea Benjamin presented him with a copy of her book “Drone Warfare, Killing by Remote Control”. Barrister Shahzad Akbar presented him with a copy of an investigatory documentary film made by French journalists concerning civilian deaths by drone attacks in the tribal region. And Robert Naiman presented him with a set of petitions containing 22,864 signatures calling for an end of the drone strikes.

            Charge d'affaires Dick spoke to us of a newspaper article that he had read that afternoon saying, “I’m sure you’ve heard the Political Agents [an appointed position created by the British occupational government under the Frontier Crimes Act in 1901] in that area said that they can’t approve the PTI march starting on October 6th. And, there is the leader of the Pakistan Taliban, the TTP, Hakimullah Mehsud and the Taliban is not one organization. It’s a continuous amalgamation of shifting alliances, of many, many different organizations. Most of them were originally criminally based, but anyway, Hakimullah Mehsud held a press conference today and said that he would personally provide security…..”.  He stopped speaking abruptly, pausing for a few seconds, apparently waiting for our reaction. I do not know if our reaction was quite what he had expected but his punch line was awarded laughter. Medea Benjamin asked him, “Are we safe now?”

            His chief of security for the region told us, “I can’t take care of every U.S. citizen that wants to walk to the left when I say to the right.” He then spoke of dangers ranging from “warlords” to earthquakes and informed us, “We don’t allow our embassy folks to go there unless it is what we call ‘mission critical’, an emergency critical for us to go there. And, we recommend against U.S. citizens going.”­­­           

            After a question from Robert Naiman (Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy) concerning drone attacks on rescuers   Charge d'affaires Dick exhaled a deep stress releasing breath saying “Let me preface any answer I give by saying because this is still a classified program [laughter] sort of, I have to be a little bit circumspect on how I answer…. “there is never any deliberate strikes [emphasis mine] against civilian rescuers.”

Leah Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace asked him “since you know where we are going and it is public knowledge where we intend to go, I assume that you have passed that information on to the DoD and the CIA so that they know where we are going to be as well. So, can we assume that there will be no drone strikes on the march “ [more group laughter] The Charge d'affaires said “I can assure you with 100% certainty that you will not be targeted”. Leah then replied “That’s what I thought so if that’s the truth that they wont strike where they know Americans are then perhaps Americans can go throughout the region and just place themselves to prevent drone strikes from happening around the world.” Ambassador Dick called the following day to complain ask who leaked a story to the Pakistani press saying that he said there would be no strikes on the day of the march.

            Charge d'affaires Dick, in an attempt to impart upon us an appreciation of his experience and knowledge told us that he started his diplomatic career twenty-eight years earlier in Peshawar, Pakistan during the “Soviet Afghan war”.  He said he, “spent three years there, working with the Afghan Resistance. So in one way or another almost throughout my entire career, I’ve been involved with Afghanistan. So I have a little background there too. I just wanted to give you that little factoid.”

            Colonel Ann Wright said a short time later, “And this background that goes back 26 years as being a liaison with the Afghan resistance during the Soviet war is a real perspective I guess”.

            I don’t quite know what “real perspective” Colonel Wright had in mind when she mentioned this and I do not believe the Charge d'affaires did either because he replied with a “thank you”. A little perspective however can be gained on the present situation in the region by looking at a transcript of a 1998 interview by Le Nouvel Observateur (France) of Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor:

Question: “The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [From the Shadows], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?”

Brzezinski: “Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded

Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

Question: “Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?”

Brzezinski: “It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.”

Question: “When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t  regret anything today?”

Brzezinski: “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.”

Question: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?”

Brzezinski: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”

            So it goes, I have observed a phenomenon played out in the Alaskan, Tanana Flats where a great conflagration appears to wither and expire at the onset of our long cold winter. However, like the hibernating bear, embers remain hot and smoldering under a protective cover of organic material and snow. Come spring breakup they awaken to consume the thawed fuel and inhale the spring breezes until the winds of their own fire generated weather again whips them into another destructive advance.  We have been told by the likes of Francis Fukuyama (a former U.S. State Department employee and author of “The End of History and the Last Man”) that the Soviet Union fell, that the “cold war” and the battle of ideas is over, the victors being “capitalist liberal democracy” and its prime advocate the United States, the worlds only remaining super power.

            Is the cold war really over? Was it ever really cold to begin with? Or, was it cold only for who observed it from great distance in the U.S., like I observe the fires from Chena Ridge, separated by great distance from searing heat in the Tanana Flats? Are the news stories fed to us by the U.S. government and its mouthpieces in the mainstream media concerning “Stirred up Muslims”, “the war on terror”, and the killing of “suspected insurgents” truthful? Are they “somewhat circumspect”? Or, are they outright lies? The fact that Charge d'affaires Dick Hoagland took an active part in that original deception called the Afghan Soviet war and still serves in a position of “diplomacy” from his fortresses of concrete walls, barbed wire, and armed guards, is disturbing to say the least. Has the endgame ever really changed?

Love On the Road to Waziristan

            How does one enter a dream? For me going to Waziristan was somewhat of a dream. The concerns of friends and family, the exotic colors painted by literature and film, the bleak human landscape portrayed in the U.S. press, and the admonitions of a “cold war holdover” were mixed thoroughly with my passion to understand humanity as humanity and to see a just world develop from this troubled one we inhabit. I had come to tell a people “who suffer because of those with no conscience” that I loved them and would struggle with them to stop those policies of my government causing their suffering.

            We learned early in the week that the delegation’s original destination, Miram Shah , North Waziristan had been changed to Kotkai, South Waziristan. An article written in the Sunday September 30, 2012 edition of The News International by Mushtaq Yusufzai [xiv], clarifies:

“The Taliban sources privy to a recent meeting of senior TTP commanders presided over by Hakimullah Mahsud said they were happy with Imran Khan’s role for highlighting the sufferings of the tribal people affected by militancy and particularly his commitment of support to victims of the US drone attacks.

The TTP commanders felt that since Imran Khan and his supporters were coming to their area to highlight the hardships and miseries of the tribe’s people in general and the Mahsuds in particular, therefore, it was their responsibility to welcome and protect them.

‘What Imran Khan and his party are doing today should have been done by the Pakhtun politicians and religious leaders hailing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas,’ a senior TTP leader argued.

He said the Taliban commanders also informed the PTI leadership about the reported threat of suicide attacks against them in case they held the march to North Waziristan instead of South Waziristan [emphasis mine].

Imran Khan had earlier planned to visit North Waziristan to hold the protest rally against drone attacks there. Apparently, he had to cancel the much-anticipated trip due to security reasons.

North Waziristan has been the main target of CIA-operated spy planes in its missile strikes in recent years.

‘We took a group of people into custody as they had hurled threats at the PTI leaders on behalf of the TTP. They are under interrogation and will be punished for terrorizing the people,’ the Taliban commander said.

He said the Mahsuds considered Imran Khan their nephew and would welcome him and his guests on the soil of his maternal uncles.”

            On the morning of October 6th 2012 the Delegation hit the road in two small busses adorned with photos of child victims of drone attacks. We entered the dream. The dream became real. We had finally embarked on the first leg of our journey, the Al-Amin Farms Hathala, near Dera Ismail Khan. The plan was for a large assembly to gather the following day and embark from the village of Tank, head to Jandola, then on to Kotkai, the home of Hakimullah Mahsud. In Kotkai we were expecting to hold a rally in solidarity with folks whose families suffered from the drone strikes. We had also hoped to meet with locals, gather their stories, and bring those stories home with us to the United States.

            Our spirits were high, our souls filled with the joy that accompanies a heart committed to humanitarian action, and we filled our busses with song as we started out on our journey. Our excitement turned electric when we caught up with the PTI caravan.

            The natural scenery along the route was beautiful but the faces of those among the crowds that greeted us along the way were even more so. Hand waves were ubiquitous and many two-finger salutes to peace were exchanged. Not all of those that I exchanged eye contact with were happy to see an American though. Considering the great harm that my policies of my government have caused in this part of the world, its arrogance, self-delusion, and evangelizing of the oxymoron “western values” I understand this. One gentleman on receiving my gesturing peace sign frowned shook his head and returned the gesture with a thumbs down. I had come to this country to express my love. It became apparent to me that the gesture, of which I had been attempting to communicate, may rightfully have been interpreted as somewhat trite or even worse flippant. I dropped the salute, bowed my head and covered my heart with my right hand. He returned the gesture, his frown relaxing. I repeated the gesture of loving respect to another gentleman whose frowning face appeared to convey a disapproval of our presence. He replied in kind and smiled.

            The sun can be oppressive in this part of the world. Many busses, like ours, have curtains that could be pulled shut to shade passengers. But the sun was bearable and we were driven to engage with those outside so we pulled our curtains back and tied them. Somewhere along the way, in the afternoon, we received a call informing us that we should pull our curtains shut. We complied reluctantly. As for some of the others, and also myself, we had come not to hide behind a piece of cloth but to meet with people.  The temptation to see our surroundings and the desire to exchange further greetings, smiles, and gestures was over powering. I started to peak out of a partially opened curtain but soon returned to full exposure. Others did as well. We received another call saying emphatically that it was imperative for our safety that we again close the curtains. For a soul straining to reach out, this was nearly unbearable. I went back to periods of peaking and hiding. 

            At one point, late that night, we entered a village somewhere near Dera Ismail Khan. Ahead of us was a truck carrying an impressive array of loud speakers and amplifiers. The music emanating from this vehicle boomed loud and inspirational. The buss stopped. I could not stand the isolation of that curtain. I wanted to go out side and trade as many hugs and handshakes as were humanly possible. The hell with it, others and I opened our curtains wide. The seen was surreal, fascinating, and beautiful. The village was mostly dark. The homes and shops were all but silhouettes to a background of heaven’s natural night-light. The street was crowded mostly with young men excited by the festivities and energized by a very recent address by Imran Khan. The light colored cammese they wore seemed to glow in the available light like the birch trees do on my homestead on a full moon winter’s night. Back and forth greetings exploded with an enthusiasm unlike any that I had seen earlier. I was again energized. One young man placed his hands splayed open upon my window. I placed mine opposite his in a gesture of human connectedness. It then started, slap, slap, slap, slap pairs of hands after pairs of hands joining mine across that thin separation of glass. One of them placing suggested kisses on both sides of my face. The bus moved on. Only after that did I realize that in a different circumstance, the one fretted on by our mysterious caller, we may have been in danger. The crowd could have easily overturned the bus. Love however bore us on.

            We arrived at our destination 14 hours later, a long and stressful 250-mile journey. The seen at the farm was no less sweetly surreal or anarchic than that of the recent village. The busses were parked and we followed strings of colored lights to the area where the crowd had gathered. There is a saying that goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men”. Hey, snafus happen. Soon a table and chairs appeared, then another set, placed in the middle of the crowd. We were asked to sit. It appeared as though the logistical calculation for the required number of tables was based on how many Americans remained standing. Anticipation for me is like strong black coffee. I had not slept the previous night for knowing this experience would be a treasure.  My mind was abuzz, with it all, like the runaway robot in a popular movie saying, “input, input, input”. I drank in my surroundings until I was nearly euphoric. I waited my turn and was one of the last to sit. No sooner had I taken my seat then we were asked to get up and move into an area enclosed in canvas walls. I thought, “This is cool, divine anarchy” and repeated a mantra handed to me by a platoon sergeant when I was in the Army “Mulford, it’s all good.” It was.

            Inside the tent we were greeted with a feast worthy of the description “melmastia”, of famed Pashtunwali hospitality. The vegetables were tasty, bread was delicious, and the roasted lamb was the best that I had ever eaten.  Nourished and revitalized, I recovered from my recent bout of vertigo. Still, Billy kept his eye on me.

            After eating, the delegation gathered in a circle outside. We were informed of another snafu regarding our sleeping arrangements. It appeared that the rooms we were to have occupied were currently quartering PTI officers, media folks, and others who arrived before we had. Again divine anarchy, “Mulford, it’s all good”, no problem. Our hosts informed us that it would be a little while but they would clear some rooms for us.

            A meeting was called from within our circle and we started our day’s debriefing. Concerns were raised over the curtain calls. Many complained that they had wanted to meet and interact with Pakistanis and felt that being hidden behind a piece of cloth was a disappointment and counter to their purpose for coming. A group of Pakistanis, Pashtuns and others, started gathering around us, their group growing larger as we stood there talking. Several of them said happily out loud, “Jerga, Jerga”. I could feel an organic connection forming. I thought, “yes, yes, Jerga, yea, you bet. Band karo, band karo, drone hamle band karo”. Then, possibly due to the stress of the day or the apparent insecurity of the moment, one of the members of the delegation sternly admonished those gathered around us, “We need our space. We are having a meeting [Jerga]. Pease go away”. Pop! I felt the connection break. I thought of Ghayrat the self-honor and dignity required by the Pashtun culture.  Like the whisper that I have heard made by silt being pulled back by a receding tide on the Yukon River, “whishssss” our audience drifted back in to the dark.

            We were to shown our rooms and gathered in one of them to continue our meeting. Jen, a representative of Reprieve, answered questions concerning the curtains. She said that none of the promises that had been made to them concerning our security had materialized. She apologized for not having made the message clear in the phone contacts but that there had been reports implicating the possibility of attacks on us as we traveled through some of the communities.

            The discussion turned to plans for the following day. We were told that there had been a credible report that a group was planning to attack us with a camel laden with explosive charges if were to continue our march into North Waziristan. I had no doubt that a “report” had been received. I had no means to ascertain its validity or the veracity of its source. My gut feeling however was that it was a scare tactic aimed at keeping us from continuing onward. I had for some time accepted the reality that we may not get to our final destination. The United States of America is the worlds military Leviathan, bent on projecting its power in a global system that it administers like an empire. I considered the words that I heard earlier in the week spoken by Ambassador Zaki, “when the system of these vehicles was initiated there was a connivance of our government. And, the subsequent government, as a result of negotiations and compromises, has endorsed that policy and the continuation of that policy.” I was under no delusion that the Pakistani government, a government that allows leviathan to murder Pakistani citizens, would allow a group of U.S. peace activists into the region to bear witness to the crime. I knew however that the experience would be wonderful. It was and much more. “Mulford, it’s all good.” In deference to our hosts, whose security assessments and decisions we had agreed to accept as final in our Stateside planning conference, and to all the members of our delegation I agreed with a plan to make a the farm the apex of our march.

            The next morning we learned that the Pakistani government had placed cargo containers across the road out of Tank and had military units stationed there to prevent the procession from continuing on. Imran Khan came to the room where we were holding our morning meeting and apologized for the shortcomings experienced the previous night. He thanked us all for our courage and stated that we had no idea how important our having come there was.            Shortly after Imran Khan left our room we picked up our banners and walked single file between two chains of Pakistanis toward the great tent full of the charged excitement of a highly spirited crowd. The Peace Rally was unlike any that I have ever experienced before. The cries of: “Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! We want peace! We want peace! We want peace!” and “band karo, band karo, drone hamle band karo!”[stop, stop, stop drone attacks] Still reverberate in my mind. They continue to bring tears to my eyes. I only wish that I could bring that great assembly to the lawn of the White House.

            It is my sincere wish to return soon to the “the land which is suffering because of those who have no conscience”. I want to stand with those injured families and face down those hateful heartless robot weapons. Like Leah Bolger said to Charge d'affaires Dick “perhaps Americans can go throughout the region and just place themselves to prevent drone strikes from happening.”  Maybe we could build a community of Pakistanis, Afghans, Iranians, U.S. citizens and other internationals smack-dab in the middle of that highway currently used to supply the occupation forces in Afghanistan. We could call it Shar Sola (Peace City in Pashto). Pakistan does indeed suffer. It has many problems. They can address most of these themselves if the wars forced upon them by colonial superpowers are made to stop. There just might be enough peace loving people in this world to carry this off. If the people of the earth decide to take the lead as delegates for peace and justice the governments would have to fall in line, lest they become superfluous.

I love you Pakistan. Shukriya, Dera manana,

Rob Mulford 

Foot Notes


[i] Ambassador Akram Zaki served as Pakistan’s ambassador to China, USA, Nigeria and Philippines and rose to the position of Secretary General with the rank of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Zaki was the session chairman of a roundtable discussion on the subject of Unmanned Aerial Combat Vehicles, sponsored by the Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad (a foreign policy think tank), and held in regard to the Code Pink Peace Delegation.

[ii]IDGA, 8th Annual UAV Summit, April 23rd 2012, 08:00,Chairpersons Welcome & Opening Remarks, Dr. Bill Powers, Research Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities Marine Warfighting Lab. 

[iii] Ibid, IDGA Summit April 25th 09:30,Lt. General Heithold, USAF, Vice Commander US Special Operations Command, Speaking at the Non-Traditional  Intelligence Surveillance and Recognizance conference.

[iv] Imran Khan is the charismatic leader of Pakistan Tehereek-E-Insaf (Party of Justice, PTI) who was led the historic “March to Waziristan”.

[v] Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, sister of Aafia Siddiqui, commenting on United States Charged'affaires Pakistan, Richard Hoagland’s angry statement when he spoke with us earlier that day. He had said that Aafia was aterrorist and was being treated in prison in a manner befitting a terrorist.

[vi] “Aafia Siddiqui: Just the Facts” page 4, A report of the International Justice Network, P.O. Box 610119 New York, N.Y. 11361-0119 www.ijnetwork.org

[vii] ibid

[viii] ibid pages 28 – 29

[ix] Components of Pashtunwali, [Accessed on February 14, 2012 at http://pashtunsforum.com/f6/components-pashtunwali-pakhtunwali-pathanwali-753/]. This document was distributed to members of the Code Pink Delegation by our hosts the Foundation for Fundamental Rights.

[x] The Institute of Policy Studies is a foreign policy think headquartered in Islamabad, Pakistan.

[xi] Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will”, New York Times, Published: May 29, 2012  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[xii] The operators that Secretary Lumpkin is referring to are U.S. Military personnel.  He further divided this classification in two, one being general operations, the second being special operations. He said that recent technologies and changes in Doctrine and strategy were making the difference between the two classifications indiscernible.

[xiii] CTTSO is the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office. It is a partnership of Federal Agencies, State and Local Agencies, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Israel. It sponsors research, development, and commercialization of technologies used in the execution of the “war on terror”.

[xiv] Article entitled “TTP Not To Disrupt PTI’s S Waziristan Peace March” in the Sunday, September 30, 2012 issue of The News International, Islamabad / Rawalpindi edition

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