by Ariana Pekary, producer
President Barack Obama came into office with a pledge to restore America’s integrity. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and as Jeremy Scahill points out, the message has been that the United States is winning the hearts and minds of people in Afghanistan. But when Scahill went out into the countryside without military minders, that’s not what he found. What he found are horrific stories of civilians who have been killed by American forces, either through night raids or drone or missile strikes. The practices that President Obama had promised to end have actually expanded under his watch.
Most people have probably heard about the increased use of drones and even targeted attacks in counties other than Iraq or Afghanistan, but what makes Scahill’s book and film unique (and so compelling) is that he goes to the villages where these attacks have occurred to talk to the families and witnesses. He humanizes those victims in distant lands. Furthermore, we’re shown how poor (or “unreliable” in diplomatic-speak) our military intelligence can be. Innocent men, women and children are being killed and maimed in gruesome ways for all the wrong reasons.
Scahill points out that if the US were carrying out these covert attacks and killing true enemies, folks probably wouldn’t mind so much. But the more we kill innocent civilians and disregard it as “collateral damage,” then the United States is breeding a new round of enemies. One man told Scahill after witnessing the deaths of his family members, that he wanted to become a suicide bomber and kill Americans as retaliation.
And this isn’t an occasional occurrence: in one week in Afghanistan, there were 1,700 nighttime raids.
AND THEN there’s the Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye who was imprisoned and tortured for reporting on these types of incidents. When President Obama got wind that Shaye was about to be released, Obama personally called Yemen’s leader to ask (demand?) that they keep the reporter in prison, which is where he remains to this day. In a recent letter written from prison, Shaye says “the only person responsible for kidnapping and detaining me is Obama.”
These are all pretty serious accusations against a man who won his seat at the White House on a wave of peace and transparency. It has to make you wonder… ”what happened?”