Malik Jalal, who has been previously described in the press as the head of the North Waziristan Peace Committee in Pakistan, says in an op-ed for the Independent in England that sources have told him that he’s on America’s kill list. The people who have been killed all around him would seem to confirm those reports. He says the West considers the North Waziristan Peace Committee a front organization for the Taliban, but it’s not.
“I am in England this week,” Jalal writes, “because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead. I’ll tell my story so that you can judge for yourselves whether I am the kind of person you want to be murdered.”
In March 2011, The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper, quoted Jalal at a Peshawar press conference declaring war on the United States. He and others at that press conference were upset that an American drone strike had just killed 40 people many of them – according to them – tribal elders with no affiliation with terrorism.
“I was early to the scene of horror,” he writes in his op-ed. “Like others that day, I said some things I regret. I was angry, and I said we would get our revenge. But, in truth, how would we ever do such a thing? Our true frustration was that we – the elders of our villages – are now powerless to protect our people.”
A 2014 New Yorker story about the drone war in Pakistan suggests that the United States was grossly undercounting the number of civilians it was killing. Drones in general are more precise than piloted jets, and drone strikes during the Obama administration are said to be more precise than those during the Bush administration.
From that story: “The total death toll from drone strikes in Pakistan is estimated at between two thousand and four thousand. Even if one accepts a civilian death toll of nine hundred and fifty-seven—the highest nongovernmental estimate—drones have probably spared more civilians than American jets have in past air wars. And if the numbers (Sen. Diane) Feinstein cited are accurate, drones killed more than twenty fighters for every civilian—a huge leap in precision. Nevertheless, even by that estimate hundreds of families in North and South Waziristan would have suffered the death of an innocent—hardly the foundation for an imagined new age of less provocative American bombing.”
That New Yorker article describes Jalal as a “tribal leader” and quotes him pointing out a major difference between an attack from a jet and an attack from a drone. The drones can circle in the sky for hours, the way vultures might. “Drones may kill relatively few,” Jalal told The New Yorker, “but they terrify many more. They turned the people into psychiatric patients. The F-16s might be less accurate, but they come and go.”
Everybody agrees that the United States has killed innocent people during its drone attacks. What do we think people who’ve lost innocent relatives will think of the United States? Do we think they’ll shrug and give us the benefit of the doubt?
While the New Yorker cites figures from Feinstein that say the drone strikes were taking out one civilian for every 20 fighters, Jalal says in his op-ed that the U.S. has been “killing nine of our innocent children for each person they target” and he called that ” a crime of unspeakable proportions” that “radicalises the very people we are trying to calm down.”
Is there a way to go after those who are real threats to the United States without making radicals out of people who otherwise wouldn’t be? Jalal suggests that he was speaking in the heat of the moment when he vowed revenge on the United States. Is there any way for him to take that back? Or is he doomed?
There’ve been many opinions arguing against the drone war, but I don’t know that there’s been one from the perspective of someone who believes that drones are out to kill him.
The New Yorker: “The Unblinking Stare: The drone war in Pakistan”
The Express Tribune: “North Waziristan tribes declare war against US”