In a unique film premiere for victims of drone strikes, Pakistani leader Imran Khan will host a screening of Robert Greenwald's new documentary "Unmanned: America's Drone Wars" in Islamabad this Friday. Khan is the most popular political leader in Pakistan, and the elected leader of the region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where drone strikes are clustered. His former wife, the London-based, Jemima Khan, is co-executive producer.
One of the deaths examined in the film is that of an innocent 16 year old Pakistani, Tariq Aziz, on October 31, 2011. The victim had testified one week earlier at a public hearing, or jirga, in Islamabad where hundreds of people rallied and listened to eyewitness accounts of drone attacks in the tribal areas of Waziristan.
Aziz was targeted by an informant at the hearing, says Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based Reprieve, a leading monitor of the strikes and their human rights impacts. The US relies on paid informants for gathering intelligence used in targeting in the remote tribal highlands region.
Featured in the documentary is a former US drone technician, Brandon Bryant, who was told by his superiors that, "we kill people and break things." Bryant was captivated by becoming a James Bond-style operative.
The US drones policy comes under severe attack this week with reports from the United Nations rapporteur, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International all being released in the same period. Both the film and the new reports strike heavy blows at the credibility of United States' claims that the drone strikes are mistake-proof and aimed solely at known terrorist threats. The CIA has stretched the legal definition of "imminent threat" to include young males "associated" with jihadist groups, however vaguely, in virtually any theater of the Long War against terrorism.
Pressure against the US drones policy has caused the strike rate to be "dropped drastically in recent months", according to the New York Times. In addition, President Barack Obama and Congress have grappled over how to "rein in" the drift towards an imperial presidency.
The relative success of the anti-drone campaign suggests that US military policies can be opposed effectively even where massive costs and ground troop numbers are not in question. The anti-drone phenomenon consists of an unusual spectrum of anti-war groups like Code Pink, independent journalists and film-makers, civil liberties and human rights lawyers, and many professional counter-insurgency advocates who oppose using air strikes as a substitute for intervention on the ground.
The documentary will screen in Washington D.C. on October 28 and in New York City on October 30. For information screenings email: Hamida@bravenewfoundation.org, or request a free copy.