Malik Jalal has traveled from Pakistan’s Waziristan border region to Britain so as to plead with President Obama to stop trying to kill him.
Malik is an honorary title that means “village leader”. He is a member of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, whose mission is to negotiate with the Pakistan Taliban to reduce violence in the region. The committee’s work is sanctioned by the government of Pakistan.
He has survived four attacks by Hellfire missiles and now sleeps out in the woods with his six-year-old son. He wrote in The Independent that he has information that the U.S. military wants to stop the work of the Peace Committee because they think peace would give the Taliban a secure sanctuary.
Jalal wrote that the first attack came in 2010, when his nephew took his vehicle to a service station to get an oil change and to have the tires checked. A Hellfire missile hit Jalal’s vehicle and another vehicle parked just beside it. The nephew was injured and four innocent bystanders were killed.
The next time he was driving to a peace conference, with another vehicle on the road behind, which happened to be the same shade of red as Jalal’s. A Hellfire missile destroyed the trailing vehicle and all four occupants, all innocent bystanders, were killed.
Jalal became sure that he was the target after the next attack. He accepted a dinner invitation by cell phone and, while he was on the way, a Hellfire missile struck, killing three innocent people, including a father of three and a mentally retarded man.
The fourth attack came early in 2011, when the Hellfire missile struck a meeting of community leaders, killing 40 people, none of whom, according to Jalal were engaged in acts of violence.
Since then he has taken to sleeping out of doors on a mountainside far from his house and always parking his vehicle a long distance from any destination. Recently, he said, his six-year-old son has joined him on the mountainside. The little boy said it was unrealistic to think that the U.S. military would refrain from killing Jalal’s family just because he wasn’t at home.
If Malik Jalal responded by traveling to the United States and attempting to kill 50 Americans, this would have been a perfectly understandable reaction—an evil reaction, completely unjustified, because no matter how much of a victim you are or think you are, it is morally wrong to take revenge on innocent people—but understandable nevertheless.
He didn’t do that. Instead he has chosen to appeal to law, the courts and public opinion, and challenged us Americans and Britons to live up to our own principles.
The Pakistani Taliban are bad people. A member of the Pakistani Taliban shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai for encouraging young girls to learn to read.
Maybe it is a mistake to try to make peace with such people. Maybe this is the only alternative to endless killing. I don’t know and I certainly don’t have standing to dictate to people in a distant part of the world as to what they should do. And even if the peacemakers are wrong, there is no moral or political justification for trying to kill them off.
The first targeted drone killings were ordered by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the Bush administration. He ordered the killing of a suspected militant who was driving a car deep inside Yemen, where the United States had no military presence.
But it is President Barack Obama who has made targeted killings the basis of U.S. policy. It has enabled his administration to carry on the Bush war policies without large numbers of American casualties.
The claim of the Obama administration is that drone killings are used to kill terrorists who are actively plotting to kill Americans. If Malik Jalal were such a person, he would not travel to a country where he could be arrested and put on trial for his crimes.
Obama does not reveal the names of the persons on his kill list, the reasons they are on the list or the basis of his legal claim that he has the Constitutional right to do this. Now terrorists who really are plotting to kill Americans know they are terrorists, and know that the U.S. government is out to get them. When George W. Bush announced that Osama bin Laden was “wanted: dead or alive,” he wasn’t tipping off Osama to anything he didn’t know.
It is only people such as Malik Jalal, who don’t think of themselves as terrorists, who can be caught unaware.
Drone killings are far from the worst atrocity committed by the U.S. government in the past 75 years. They have caused much less loss of innocent life than, for example, the saturation bombing of Cambodia ordered by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The distinctive thing about Obama’s Kill Lists is that they are unrestricted either as to location (a war zone) or in time (the duration of a war).
Because of him, President Trump, President Cruz, President Clinton or any other future president can order the killing of any person, anywhere in the world, based on their own will and judgment, and not have to give any reason other than they have determined the person is a threat to the United States.
None of the five leading Presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, has questioned either the policy of targeted killing or its legality.
I’m on the Kill List. This is what it feels like to be hunted by drones by Malik Jalal for The Independent.
The Drone Papers by The Intercept.
Photo credit: Geographical Imaginations.