U.S. drone attacks in support of a pending Pakistani offensive against Taliban leader Baitullah Meshud has likely caused another major civilian casualty event–by using tactics similar to those used by suicide bombers. Democracy Now! reports:
At least 60 people have reportedly died in the South Waziristan region of western Pakistan after a US drone attack Tuesday. The vast majority were killed when missiles from an unmanned American drone struck the funeral of a suspected Taliban commander. The suspected commander and 6 others had died in a previous drone attack earlier in the day.
Tuesday’s attacks came as the Pakistani army and airforce expanded their military operations from Swat into South Waziristan. The Pakistani army was reportedly preparing an offensive against Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban leader who is blamed for several recent bombing attacks across Pakistan.
The Pentagon denied the attacks and told Al Jazeera english that “there are no U.S. military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”
Can you remember the last funeral you attended? Even if it was a funeral for a member of the military or someone who died violently, how many people in the crowd were civilians?
The Pentagon may well be telling the truth that there are “no U.S. military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.” But that answer is deceptively specific. Drones are the favorite tool of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which is not a military agency. And, there are significant indications that the U.S. is giving Pakistani military authorities significant influence in the targeting and use of the drones.
The incident is part of an escalating drone war that has sparked serious controversy in both Pakistan and the United States. It also comes as Pakistan readies an offensive against Mehsud: Pakistani newspapers are also reporting the arrest of some of the Taliban leader’s fundraisers in Karachi….
Pakistan’s The Nation has details on a first strike that preceded the funeral: A drone fired three missiles into a militant stronghold near Makeen village, northeast of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials told The Nation that attack killed six militants and destroyed a compound, a bunker and two vehicles.
A follow-on strike apparently targeted the funeral service for individuals killed in the first attack. Mehsud — who is suspected of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and has a $5 million bounty on his head — reportedly paid a visit to the village where the funeral took place, but managed to dodge the strike. The Associated Press quotes two intelligence officials as saying Mehsud left the scene before drone fired the missiles.
Anti-war.com speculates on the absolute viciousness of this current suicide-bomber-like “bomb once, wait for crowd, bomb again” tactic:
It is possible that the Pakistani military’s history of indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets and eagerness for massive kill counts is eliminating the diplomatic obstacles which have kept the deaths from the Americans’ own attacks comparatively low.
The war in Afghanistan continues its creep to the east. Congress and the President must act to end it and bring our troops home immediately. Presidents, generals, troops or robots purporting to act in my name in response to 9/11 long ago lost the thread of continuity that leads back to the World Trade Center. We’re wandering around dropping one-ton bombs on people living in mud huts with no clear path to anything recognizable as “victory.” Beyond that, the tactics we’re using show that we’ve lost anything remotely resembling respect for human rights and dignity, attempts to lecture the Taliban from the moral high ground notwithstanding. We know we’re killing civilians, and we just. keep. doing. it.
Bring the troops home, and ground those damn drones.
UPDATE: The International News (h/t Antiwar.com) segments the dead: 40 low-level militants, 35 local villagers. Among the villagers killed by the second bomb were 10 children ages five-to-10 and four local tribal elders.
How many more kids are you willing to sacrifice for a false sense of security?