The Nobel Peace Prize winner and President of the United States, Barack Obama, confirmed last week that his country uses unmanned aerial vehicles to bomb targets in Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Though this has been an open secret, it was the first time that the international crime was publically admitted. He didn't stop there and went on to defend these attacks that have killed thousands of innocent people in FATA. According to him, the US carries out these attacks to avoid more intrusive military action, that the bombing is carefully targeted and that these precision strikes are carried out to kill Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. He was not put on the spot about the innocent civilians, including women, children and the elderly, who have been killed by the US drones; not that it would have made him uncomfortable. Representatives of the wicked superpower have coined a standard term to justify that kind of thing. Very conveniently, they call it collateral damage.
The streets, fields and graveyards of Iraq and Afghanistan would give a good idea about what that collateral damage means. They are not the only examples of countries that have been ravaged by large scale death and destruction at the hands of the US, all in the name of high-flying principles like democracy and human rights and catchily-named fake bogeys like the war on terror and weapons of mass destruction. The badmash superpower doesn't mind killing large numbers of people in whose name they wage these wars, people whose rights it seems so eager to defend and fight for. It doesn't mind creating terror for millions of people on a daily basis to wage its spurious war on terror. It spends hundreds of billion dollars waging war in distant lands, killing innocent people, destroying their homes and cities, turning their lush fields to charred earth, but it has no money for its poor, no money for its citizens who might need the help of their country, supposed to be the richest on earth.
It is said that with great power comes great responsibility, but power seems to have produced strange results for the sole superpower that, instead of using it to create a peaceful and prosperous world, is hell bent to utilise that power to ride roughshod over the entire planet. And as it hurtles along on its dangerous mission, killing and destroying everyone and everything that stands in its way, manipulating societies to foment unrest and divisions so that the situation could be used to its advantage, it lectures the world about civilised behaviour and all that comes with it. In the case of the US, great power has brought with it hypocrisy and arrogance. The self-proclaimed torchbearer of humanity and human values has no qualms about saying one thing and doing another. It has the audacity to talk glibly about millions of precious innocent lives lost as collateral damage.
Of course, the US is made possible with more than a little help from accomplices in the targeted countries, whether they come in the form of pliant governments or disenchanted groups that are funded and armed to serve as tools of imperialism. In Pakistan, the most important ally of the US is the so-called democratic government. While we condemn the deaths and destruction, the loot and plunder, perpetrated by the US, it is important not to forget the support that it gets from those in charge of our destiny. According to confidential cables sent by the US Embassy in Pakistan and released by Wikileaks, President Asif Zardari is reported to have told US officials in a private meeting that they should carry on with their drone strikes and not worry about innocent lives lost. He is quoted to have said that collateral damage does not bother him. Officially, our stand is that these strikes are unlawful, counterproductive and unacceptable.
When a CIA agent posing as a US diplomat killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight on a crowded square in the centre of Lahore, our leadership engineered his escape from the country. When US commandos conducted their get-Osama raid deep inside Pakistani territory without so much as informing the so-called ally, our President congratulated the US in an op-ed piece published the very next day in a major American daily. What kind of signals are we sending to the US? The military leadership seems to have come out of the US hypnosis, but the government is obviously still ready to serve the two-faced master. Despite the unwillingness on part of the US to apologise for the death of Pakistani soldiers killed in the attack on the Salalah checkposts, or to even guarantee that it won't happen again, government ministers are talking about re-opening the Nato supply routes after taxing the containers.
An elderly friend says that we should not blame the foreign invaders and colonialists for their crimes and exploitation, as they could not have been successful without help from local players. He is well versed in history and quotes many battles and intrigues to prove his point; the betrayals and selling out of insiders that made it possible for imperialism to thrive. Naturally, it gets worse if those willing to sell out the interests of their people are not few but an entire political elite, an elite that is so hopelessly sold out that it sees its own country and its people through the eyes of the imperialists, an elite weaned on loans and hemmed in by the framework of those who want to control what goes on in the country that it is supposed to govern, an elite that parrots what the master says and has no narrative of its own. We cannot hope to break the stranglehold of the global badmash with people like that calling the shots in Pakistan.
However, my elderly friend is only partially right. While citizens of Pakistan continue their struggle to rid themselves of colonial stooges pretending to be the leaders of a free country, and to put in place a government that will work for their interests, they must not turn a blind eye to the slithery machinations of imperialism that have been perfected over the years, complete with new divisions that it must sow to rule and new burdens of democracy and human rights that it must carry to the ends of the world. Whatever the crimes of our own elite, it does not absolve the leaders of the so-called free world of their crimes against humanity. President Obama's drone attacks are a crime too big to be hidden by his Nobel Peace Prize.
The writer is a freelance columnist.