Earlier this month, the Pakistani English-language daily “Dawn” reported U.S. drone-missile attacks have claimed the lives of more than 700 people in Pakistan in 2009. The report was based on statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities and has been virtually ignored by the U.S. media.
Under the direction of President Obama, U.S. drones fired missiles into the tribal areas of western Pakistan a total of 44 times last year. This is more than twice the number of strikes carried out during the last year of the Bush administration. Of these 44 strikes, “Dawn” reports that “only five were able to hit their actual targets, killing five key Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but at a cost of over 700 innocent civilians.”
When put in perspective, the statistics reveal the criminal nature of U.S. involvement within the borders of a sovereign nation with which the U.S. is not at war. “For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by U.S. drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die,” Dawn reported. “Over 90 percent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.”
Tragically, these deaths provide only a fraction of Pakistanis killed last year. On Jan. 10, the Pak Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS) published a report describing results of the quasi civil war Pakistan has descended into over the past year. The report claims at least 12,632 Pakistanis were killed and another 12,815 were wounded in 2009. This is nearly twice the estimated 6,500 deaths in Afghanistan last year.
These deaths are a direct consequence of U.S. imperialism in the region. Since taking office, the Obama administration has placed intense pressure upon Islamabad to step up its military operations across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Islamabad has complied at the risk of sending the nuclear-armed nation into an all-out civil war.
According to the PIPS report, the Pakistani military conducted 596 “operational attacks” against militants in 2009 in which at least 6,329 people were killed and 3,181 injured. In the 2009 attacks by militants on security forces, at least 1,163 were killed and 780 wounded. Fighting between Islamist rebelsw and pro-government tribal militias resulted in 1,209 deaths and 787 wounded. Another 130 incidents classified as “political violence” took 209 lives and injured 370. The 2,586 “terrorist attacks” conducted by the Taliban and other anti-government organizations killed at least 3,021 and wounded at least another 7,334.
The deaths listed in the PIPS report are not broken down according to militants, soldiers, and civilians. However, if Pakistan Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar is to be believed, only 2,500 Taliban fighters were killed in both Swat Valley and South Waziristan – where most of the fighting took place. How many of the other 10,000 killed were innocent civilians?
Furthermore, since the PIPS report is based on media reports, the death toll undoubtedly underestimates reality. Journalists were not even permitted into South Waziristan during the military offensive there.
One year into his presidential term – a presidency won largely by appealing to the deep hatred of the American people for the criminal war policies of the Bush administration – Obama has emerged as a war criminal in his own right. Having fully adopted the war in Afghanistan as his own, he has expanded it with an additional 30,000 troops and is extending it into the sovereign nation of Pakistan. The more than 700 Pakistani civilians killed last year by U.S. drones amounts to an exercise in extra-judicial executions and mass murder.
The coming year will prove even bloodier than the last with the military “surge” being implemented by the Obama administration. This is to say nothing of the continuing occupation of Iraq and the increasing threats emerging from Washington against Iran and Yemen.
Students and working people must draw the lessons of the past decade – a decade that has been characterized by the explosion of U.S. imperialism. Time and again, the will of the American electorate has been shown nothing but contempt by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Opposition to the criminal militaristic adventures abroad and the reckless fiscal policies at home must take as its starting point a break with these two traditional bourgeois parties. This requires the formation of an independent political party to advance the independent class interests of workers and students.