Published in Express Tribune Blogs on the 25th of April, 2015
On Thursday this week, United States President Barrack Obama apologized for the accidental killing of an American and an Italian citizen in a drone attack in Pakistan.
“As President and Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counter-terrorism operations,…………….
…..I profoundly regret what happened”
– Barrack Obama
What did happen?
In a drone strike targeting an Al-Qaeda camp, two hostages; Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, US and Italian citizens respectively, were killed. These innocent civilians joined a long list of unfortunate civilian casualties, tagged: collateral damage.
The multi-billion dollar drone project was lauded by US military and intelligence circles because there was no longer a need to risk human lives in aerial combat. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) did not need a pilot to fly it. It could instead be flown via remote control from the ground. It is quite remarkable how in terms of benefits of a UAV, only US military and air force pilots qualify as “human lives”.
There is no “official” estimate of exactly how many “collaterals” have lost their lives to this technological marvel called drone. Some estimates are as high as 98 percent (50 civilians for 1 terrorist); an astounding figure. This may come as a surprise, since we have not seen a US president publicly apologize for all these civilian casualties. Had Obama apologized for every innocent civilian who lost his life in a drone strike, he would have spent most of his tenure in making apology statements. In the absence of an accurate official figure, any figure is just a guesstimate. However it is an admitted fact that there have been civilian casualties, many of them in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
So why were these two lives worthy of an apology from the all powerful US President? And why weren’t the lives of thousands (guesstimate) – or even hundreds – of Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani and Yemeni civilians so valuable?
The most convenient answer is the anti-US, hate fueling narrative; US hates Muslims and, in connivance with the Jews, plans on eliminating as many as it can. Well there may be some merit in this theory, but I am afraid it is not the answer to all our questions.
By apologizing for two, Italian and American, lives lost in a drone strike, did Obama discriminate against all the Muslim Pakistani ,Iraqi and Afghan ‘collaterals’ that he did not apologize for?
Did he endorse that lives are more valuable in the west than they are in the east?
It is always more entertaining to peak through another’s window and find flaws, but far more productive to look in the mirror once in a while.
My instant response to Obama’s apology was: why doesn’t he apologize for all “accidental killings” of my fellow Pakistani citizens, in drone attacks? That got me thinking. Brushing aside all alleged conspiracy theories, I tried and looked elsewhere for answers. And pretty soon, I wasn’t that offended anymore.
What if I told you that the sanctity of a citizen’s life in the world, depends on the value of his life within his State. What if Obama apologized not because the lost lives were not Muslim, Afghan, Iraqi or Pakistani but because lives of citizens in Italy and US are more sacred than they are in our States.
Citizens in Italy or the US are not lynched or burnt alive by their fellow citizens on a routine basis. They are not shot at and killed, by State law enforcement agencies, in municipal operations for removal of barricades. People in the west cannot publicly and confidently side with murderers on the pretext of religious freedom and divinity.
The absence of an apology from the US President may have offended me, but then the President of Pakistan never apologized for the loss of 19 Pakistani lives in Model Town Lahore at the hands of Punjab Police. Pertinent to note, the police wasn’t even hunting for terrorists, they were only trying to aid the local administration in “removal of barricades”.
My President did not apologize for the death of around a hundred innocent infants in the District Headquarter Hospital of Sargodha, due to lack of medical facilities. Facilities that could have been provided to the hospital with funds allocated instead for one metro bus.
Neither did he apologize for the death of an infant while his parents searched for a ventilator in Faisalabad, while the “State” was busy catering to the Chinese guests.
My president did not apologize for failing to protect his citizens from being burnt alive, on more than one occasion.
He did not apologize for all the men, women and children who died of hunger in Thar.
But then our President is powerless. And if great power begets great responsibility, no power should bring no responsibility.
So did the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers or Governors apologize?
And here we are, expecting Obama to apologize for lives that we have, by implication, ourselves declared dispensable.