Transcript: Reprieve Staff Attorney Jennifer Gibson’s remarks on civilian drone strike victims – Oct. 29, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney with Reprieve, on civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes. The congressional briefing was held on Oct. 29, 2013:

Thank you, Congressman Grayson, for giving civilian victims of drone strikes this opportunity to speak with lawmakers in the U.S…

You’ve just heard about the devastations drones visited on Rafiqul, Zubair, and Nabeela. It is vital to understand however that this tragedy is far from the only one.

Since 2010, Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights have interviewed more than 150 families and civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes.

Only three have made the long journey from the tribal areas of Pakistan but all of them have stories, largely unheard and untold here in the U.S. Together, they reveal a secret war that is immoral, unlawful, and counter-productive.

Mistakes – like the mistake that killed Mamana Bibi – are not standalone events. They started with the very first strike this administration took.

On Jan. 23, 2009, the U.S. launched a strike on 14-year-old Fahim Quershi’s house…In a flash, Fahim lost 7 members of his family and his dreams for a future. As the only survivor of the strike, he suffered serious burns to his body, a fractured skull, and a loss of sight in one of his eyes. A shy and slight young man, Fahim often tells me about how he still dreams of being a scientist or an engineer. But the ongoing headaches and the mood swings from his injuries and the constant fear of new strikes makes school impossible for him.

…Drone defenders often claim that strikes are more precise than the alternative. But that precision is based on intelligence that we are finding time and time again to be false.

I have met people who have lost family members because they bore the same name as someone else – a clear case of mistaken identity.

Others because they tried to provide aid to people who are injured in initial strikes – so-called rescuer strikes.

And still others because they engaged in a pattern of behavior deemed suspicious by the U.S. – the signature strikes mentioned earlier.

And then there are those who seemed to have been targeted for no other reason than that they opposed the drone strikes. On Oct. 30, 2011, a strike killed another youth Tariq Aziz, who has volunteered to help…collect evidence of a drone strike…

I struggle on a daily basis with the question if Tariq Aziz was such an imminent threat to the U.S. national security, why wasn’t he arrested in Islamabad when he was just a few miles down the road from the U.S. Embassy?

Like Rafiqul’s case, all of these cases have overwhelming evidence to back up their claims.

Major U.S. universities and human rights organizations have examined the evidence and raised alarm bells. And yet when he and dozens of others asked me why the U.S. continues to deny harm done, I had no answer.

Like Congressman Grayson, the onus is not on these victims to provide evidence of their case; they have done that. The onus is now on President Obama and this administration to bring this war out of the shadows and to give answers. That is how democracy works. Democracies demand transparency; they cannot operate in shadows.

Until we do that, every child who loses life or limb persuades dozens more tribes in Pakistan that the United States does not distinguish friend from foe.

Children who are not hit themselves like Nabeela and Zubair continue to live in terror that the hovering drone may attack them next. Silence in the face of this only fuels resentment, not just against the United States but against the government of Pakistan for its complicity in these killings.

Too often this debate has been a quibble about statistics and not about the human costs and political consequence of the drone wars. I hope today’s testimony offers a much-needed antidote to this.


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One Comment on “Transcript: Reprieve Staff Attorney Jennifer Gibson’s remarks on civilian drone strike victims – Oct. 29, 2013

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Nabeela Rehman’s remarks on civilian drone strike victims – Oct. 29, 2013 | What The Folly?!

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