What’s It Like To Be Hit By A Drone?
A meticulously researched report was released by Stanford University last year called “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan”. The report states how the drone attacks can injure in a number of ways:
The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report says. “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.
Here’s another excerpt of the report giving a tiny glimpse of a firsthand experience:
At about 5:00 that evening, they heard the hissing sound of a missile and instinctively bent their heads down. The missile slammed into the center of the room, blowing off the ceiling and roof, and shattering all the windows. The immense pressure from the impact cracked the walls of the attached house, as well as those of the neighboring houses.
Our research team reviewed photographs that Faheem showed us, which he said showed the destruction to the home. Faheem, who stated that he was approximately ten footsteps away from the center of the hujra, suffered a fractured skull and received shrapnel wounds and burns all over the left side of his body and face. All others in the hujra-at least seven, but as many as 15 people-were killed.
In the moments after the strike, Faheem said he “could not think.” “I felt my brain stopped working and my heart was on fire,” stated Faheem. “My entire body was burning like crazy.” Faheem wanted to splash water on his face, but he could not find any. After a few minutes of confusion, he stumbled out of the gate of his hujra, where neighbors found him.
They quickly gathered Faheem into a pickup truck and rushed him to a government hospital in Mir Ali, a ten-minute drive away, according to Faheem. Medics there bandaged his wounds and transferred him to another hospital in Bannu, the closest major city outside FATA, where doctors operated to remove shrapnel from his abdomen and repair damage to his leg, arm, and eyes.
That’s not the sort of experience you would wish on anyone. The US military and the CIA have secret “kill lists” to work from. Don’t get me wrong, these dudes have some seriously technologically advanced ways of tracking people down, but they can’t always get it right. Civilians die in wars, that’s an uncomfortable fact; but America isn’t at war with Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. It’s “taking out their trash”… really clumsily.
What Should We Do With Drones?
The stories and facts above are emotive and without consideration of any potential good the American military is doing. The difficult question is, if we delete drones from our repertoire what do we replace them with, if anything?
My gut instinct is that America should retract its weaponised tendrils from all countries, but I know that’s childish and naÃ¯ve. It may also be true that most of the difficulties America experiences abroad are born from the past errors of the West. Also, many of their fights may be focused on increasing the US’ wealth and global control. But unfortunately the bottom line is that whether we use drones or not and whether America removes its forces or not, civilians, men, women and children will suffer.
To muddy the waters even further, Yemeni, Somalian and Pakistani authorities have all said “yes” to America sending in the drones in the first place. This is causing further political instability in countries that are already wobbling. The governments of these countries don’t want al-Qaeda and their ilk in their homes, fair enough. But the bombing makes the government incredibly unpopular with the good law abiding citizens that just so happen to live in regions where terrorists are supposed to be hiding.
The political ramifications are complex and again, there’s no winners (except for the people who manufacture and sell the drones I guess?) This mess is so complicated and thorough that there’s no easy way out anymore. No one can win.
Be it at the hands of the Americans or their enemies, the first casualty of war is always innocence; the second casualty of war is usually anyone who isn’t of Western origin.