In drone wars, women disappear, bodies never counted, names never known


The United States drone program, run by the CIA with the complicity of the NSA, inaugurated a new form of deterritorialized death sentence without trial or any form of public review in developing countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. This secret program fits in with the rhetoric of domination and control. Its process is obscure, and its cruelty is obscured. As for its victims they are nameless, genderless and without rights.

Reprieve, an NGO that litigates for victims of these obscured actions whose access to legal recourse would be sketchy, recently published a report entitled: You Never Die Twice. It brings to light the strange body count of the US secret drone war. The report also deconstructs the false claims by the Obama administration that the drone attacks are appropriate surgical strikes. The administration along with most of the American political establishment has backed the drone program as a “humanitarian advance” in warfare.

The Reprieve report tells another story. For example, 41 men on the Obama’s Kill List have been announced as killed several times. Seven of them are still alive. For instance Ayman al-Zawahiri, a targeted man was reported killed twice although he is still alive. Meanwhile, 105 people were killed as a result of these “surgical strikes.”

The report identified 24 men reported killed in Pakistan and 874 other people died as a result, among them 142 children, adding “each person was killed on average three time.” In Yemen, 17 were reported killed, and 273 other people were killed. The report describes the collateral casualties as other people and children who are typically innocent victims.

Innocence is difficult to prove from a distance, especially when the observer, the judge and the executor (all at once) have already deprived every one of all humanity, using a language that stereotypes all adults as potential terrorists. Thus, children are the only ones left to play the role of the innocent. Meanwhile, women who care for these innocent children are eliminated in an anonymous way. Women casualties are underreported or not reported at all.

A principle of secrecy characterizes the American drone program. The authors of the report explain that putting together this information is a considerable challenge. They use many sources including data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism local sources, crossing-checking news sources with testimonies. In this process, women disappear and once again become invisible or passively subdued.

Meanwhile, mainstream media have been skillfully normalizing the arguments of the Obama administration to support the Drone program. Media-designated experts reinforce these false images. For example, former Ambassador Christopher Hill told CNN audiences, “I have seen a number of these strikes and it is amazing how accurate and how well-targeted they are. I mean, the idea that innocents are being killed, it’s really not the case.”

As Europe adopts more of the anti terrorist rhetoric accompanied with laws making legal what was in a recent past considered morally unacceptable, many European countries are investing in “the drone market.” For now, only the United Kingdom has armed its drones; its intelligence is directly involved in the establishment of the Kill List.

The French government is considering purchasing US Reaper drones, clearly signaling its intention to follow this deadly direction. A recent report has explored the possibilities for arming French drones. With the rest of the EU, France has abolished the death penalty and signed international laws that imply the respect of humanistic principles and the principle of distinction between combatants and civilians.

Nonetheless, the authors of the report articulate concrete recommendations, claiming “this study also opens deciders to ways susceptible to help them to overcome some of the identified difficulties.” So deciders should have necessary tools to overthrow the identified difficulties that stop them from carrying out deadly and blinded attacks on populations in other countries. Are these identified difficulties the still imperfect international laws that have attempted to establish humanistic conduct? In addition, the report examines what will be the degree of acceptance by the French establishment if these attacks were to be carried out. They would annihilate the existence of populations that are far from the deciders of their fate.

In February 2014, the European Parliament passed a resolution, expressing concerns over the use of armed drones. The resolution listed demands and restrictions, including a ban on the practice of extrajudicial targeted killings, and the inclusion of armed drones in international disarmament and arms control regimes. Groups such as Code Pink are pressuring Europe to renounce to the purchase of American or Israeli drones that can be armed.

The use of drones is another example of the dehumanization that accompanies the ruthless devaluation of targeted populations in certain locations for the protection of some. This recently developed armament that carries out an illegal death sentence, fits the neoliberal deterritorialization process. As the program uses obscure criteria to determine the culpability of people, it also aggravates the destabilization of regions that have been targeted for their strategic value by richer countries. The richer countries always claim to defend international laws. In this process, women have disappeared; their bodies are not even countable.


(Photo Credit: Debra Sweet / Flickr / Common Dreams)


About Brigitte Marti

Brigitte Marti is an organizer researcher who has worked on reproductive rights and women's health initiatives in France and in the European Union and on women prisoners' issues in the United States. She is a member of Women Included, a new transnational feminist collective, that is part of the Women 7, a coalition that advocates for the inclusion of women's rights in the G7.