US Drones: 'Psychological Torture' from Above and the Resistance from Below
By Sarah Lazare / commondreams.org
Mar 19, 2014

As the United States steps up covert drone strikes on Yemen, with three suspected U.S. drone attacks killing at least four people in Yemen early this month, campaigners on the ground say the accumulated years spent living under constant threat of death from above are sowing tragedy, "psychological torture," and resistance across the country.

"Entire communities are being killed off and families are being torn apart," said Rooj Alwazir, an anti-drone organizer based in Yemen, in an interview with Common Dreams. "Many people are living in constant fear because they could be next, creating widespread and long-term psychological torture. Many young boys are afraid to gather and children stop going to school and families stop gathering."

"As a result," she added, "the drone program fails to achieve their purpose. Instead of keeping the U.S. and Yemenis safe they end up breeding animosity and tearing apart the social fabric of some of the poorest and marginalized communities in the world."

While the U.S. government conceals information about its drone campaign from the public, data from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows that drone strikes in Yemen have overall increased since the first recorded attack in 2002, with a drastic spike in 2012. This trend was confirmed by Robert Naiman, Policy Director for Just Foreign Policy, who told Common Dreams, "Recently, drone strikes have been tapering off in Pakistan and increasing in Yemen. It has gone up and down, but the trend, since the drone strikes started, has increased."

Entire communities are being killed off and families are being torn apart. Many people are living in constant fear because they could be next, creating widespread and long-term psychological torture. —Rooj Alwazir, anti-drone organizer

This is partially due to the strong backing of the Yemeni government for attacks allegedly targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is believed to be active in Yemen. Yet, Alwazir says, "Yemenis, like Americans, do not want al Qaeda; they too terrorize their communities. But fighting terrorism with terrorism will only further hurt Yemeni civilians living in between al Qaeda and the state and it will backfire on the U.S. and Yemeni government. Drones terrorize and kill; they are in no way a solution to fighting terrorism."

According to Naiman, "The central government is making a deal with the Americans, giving permission to carry out drone strikes in certain areas. People in these areas don't have any say in the government signing off on this."

The regions most targeted by drones strikes are often those in dire need of public services. "Areas where drones have struck are usually areas that are severely impoverished," said Alwazir. "No schools, no hospitals, no roads. A Hellfire missile costs $60,000 and four are usually launched at the same time. Instead of spending it on killing, the money should be spent fixing roads and building schools."

While the Obama administration has refused to publicly identify the people killed in drone attacks, it has repeated the unverified claim that civilian deaths have been minimal. A "modest" initiative in the U.S. Senate that would have forced the U.S. government to publicly report those killed by U.S. drone strikes overseas and identify the civilians and alleged combatants killed failed last November.

According to Alwazir, the official government breakdown between "civilian" and "militant" is suspect. "Those killed are forced into a militant/civilian binary that only reinforces a common misunderstanding of 'militant' to begin with. And because to the U.S. government, a male 16 years and older is a potential suspect, it allows the U.S. and Yemeni government to continue launching missiles and get away with 'mistakes' a little bit easier," she said. "Unfortunately, both governments refuse to acknowledge their mistakes and apologize, further alienating, angering and aggravating Yemeni society."

This is despite mounting evidence of high numbers of civilian deaths and injuries by drone strikes in Yemen, as well as Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, confirmed U.S. drone strikes in Yemen since 2002 have killed between 30-75 civilians, including 6 children. "Possible extra US drone strikes" have killed between 24 and 43 civilians, including 6 to 8 children.

A December 2013 U.S. drone strike on a recent wedding procession in Yemen near the city of Rad’a left 12 people dead and at least 15 wounded. While U.S. and Yemeni officials were quick to claim that the attack killed "militants," eye-witnesses and relatives of the deceased contradicted these claims. A 28-page report by Human Rights Watch traces chilling accounts of slaughter of civilians, for which victims and their survivors have still received no answers from the U.S. government.

Opponents of U.S.-led military aggression say that the heavy toll from U.S. drone strikes is only going to grow as this form of warfare expands. "Drone warfare is on the rise. Governments have found a way of not putting human troops in the line of fire and instead of sending remote controlled robots to kill people," said Jerry Goralnick, member of the War Resisters League and organizer of protsts against defense contractor L3 Communications, which is involved in U.S. drone production. "This is going to happen more and more, and direct action to stop it is really important."

According to Alwazir, civilian casualties are sparking public opposition that could force change at the policy level. "The National Dialogue, the body appointed to create a new constitution, has also recommended a law that would make a criminal offense of extra-judicial killing," said Alwazir. "The recommendation was issue by the National Issues and Transitional Justice Working Group, which would outlaw the US drone strikes that have killed and injured hundreds of people in Yemen, including the brutal wedding attack that killed 12 and injured 15."

And then there are the everyday acts of resistance that "come in all forms," according to Alwazir. "You have the protests that happen in front of the U.S. Embassy and then you have people like Mohammed al Qawli who lost his brother to a drone strike in January 2013 and took the lead in street outreach and educating everyday Yemenis on the impact of drones. Qawli started a "Drone victims support network" and visits families impacted and empowers them to speak up. Abeer Omar bakes and visits her neighbors as a way to break barriers of fear. Her baking is her resistance."

4.0 ·
1
Trending Today
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 13,636 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 11,524 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 5,075 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 3,572 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,287 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 2,273 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 1,943 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 985 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Supporters 'Ecstatic' After Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Nika Knight · 921 views today · Whistleblower to be released from military prison in May
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 761 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 590 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 574 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 567 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Coping With Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House
N Ziehl · 410 views today · I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are...
Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: A Guide to Gracefully Losing Faith in a Collapsing Dominant Culture
Jim Tull · 342 views today · I recall a Buddhist parable involving a stick that appears from a distance to be a snake, causing fear to rise in the perceiver. As the perception shifts upon closer...
Watch How Europeans Carved Up African Land They Never Owned
56 min · 288 views today · Watch how Europeans gave away African land they never owned, then expressed anger when Africans resisted. The film is called Africa: A Voyage of Discovery, Episode 6: The...
10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn't Learn About In History class
Kathleen Harris · 269 views today · We all know male revolutionaries like Che Guevara, but history often tends to gloss over the contributions of female revolutionaries that have sacrificed their time, efforts...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 255 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 250 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 232 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
US Drones: 'Psychological Torture' from Above and the Resistance from Below