In March 2009, I went to Kabul as part of my work on Brave New Foundation’s documentary Rethink Afghanistan. My trip was an effort to understand the realities of life in an unrelenting warzone, and to find voices that weren’t yet heard eight years after U.S. forces invaded the country. In the same spirit, I am going to Pakistan to investigate what life is like for those living under drones.
In addition to drone-strike victims, I will interview Pakistani government and military officials, public health workers, legal experts and journalists, among others, with the aim of understanding Pakistani perspective of America’s drone war. It was invaluable to go to Afghanistan and speak with the people bearing witness to the harsh truths of war; my aim is to get a similar sense of reality in Pakistan.
Critical and fundamental questions must be asked. Do these drone strikes make the United States any safer, as the government claims is the ultimate goal, or are they a prime recruitment tool that results in more militancy? Though controversy exists over whether Pakistan consents to the strikes, does that matter when the US is reportedly killing civilians and Pakistan’s national sovereignty is undermined? What happens when the legal and ethical precedents set by US drone strikes are followed by other countries, especially those the US claims to be at odds with? Is this a short-sighted policy that will have dire, far-reaching effects in the longer term? These are questions Americans, Pakistanis and, really, people the world over deserved to hear discussed during the presidential election. Instead, we got basically a “we both agree” moment in the final debate, as Mitt Romney said he would continue to use drones as president, and President Obama wasn’t even pressed by moderator Bob Schieffer to explain his administration’s covert policy. So here we sit, a new, yet-to-be understood era of warfare steeped in secrecy.
While I am in Pakistan, I will periodically report my observations and experiences. Those updates can be found at Huffington Post as well as here at warcosts.com/drone_exposed, Facebook and Twitter. Check back soon for more!