One is a journalist, Safdar Dawar, general secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists. Journalists are operating under very difficult circumstances in the area, pressured by both militant groups and the Pakistani government. Six of his colleagues have been killed while reporting in North and South Waziristan. The other man, who asked us not to disclose his name, is from Miranshah, the epicenter of North Waziristan. He works with the locally based Waziristan Relief Agency, a group of people committed to helping the victims of drone attacks and military actions. “If people need blood or medicine or have to go to Peshawar or some other hospital,” said the social worker, “I’m known for helping them. I also try to arrange funds and contributions.”
Both men emphasized that Pakistan’s government has only a trivial presence in the area. Survivors of drone attacks receive no compensation, and neither the military nor the government investigates consequences of the drone attacks.
Mr. Dawar, the journalist, added that when he phoned the local political representative regarding the May 12 drone attack, the man couldn’t tell him anything. “If you get any new information,” said the political representative, “please let me know.”
In U.S. newspapers, reports on drone attacks often amount to about a dozen words, naming the place and an estimated number of militants killed. The journalist and social worker from North Waziristan asked us why people in the U.S. don’t ask to know more.
It’s hard to slow down and look at horrifying realities. Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker, (“The Predator War,” Oct. 26, 2009), quoted a former CIA official’s description of a drone attack:
“People who have seen an air strike live on a monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. ‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and the explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff,’ a former C.I.A. officer who was based in Afghanistan after September 11th says of one attack.”
“Human beings running for cover are such a common sight,” Jane Mayer continued, “that they have inspired a slang term: ’squirters.’”
Just rubble and charred stuff…
The social worker recalled arriving at a home that was hit, in Miranshah, at about 9:00 p.m., close to one year ago. The house was beside a matchbox factory, near the degree college. The drone strike had killed three people. Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and hands. One body was still on fire when he reached there. Then he learned that the charred and mutilated corpses were relatives of his who lived in his village, two men and a boy aged seven or eight. They couldn’t pick up the charred parts in one piece. Finding scraps of plastic they transported the body parts away from the site. Three to four others joined in to help cover the bodies in plastic and carry them to the morgue.
But these volunteers and nearby onlookers were attacked by another drone strike, 15 minutes after the initial one. Six more people died. One of them was the brother of the man killed in the initial strike.