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Fata’s ’squirters’
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12 Jun 2010
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Saturday, June 12, 2010
Iftekhar A Khan

If you live in any of the two Waziristans and spot drones overhead in the sky and you run for cover to save your life, you’re a “squirter,” which is a new slang term coined for such men, women and children.

Raining down Hellfire missiles from drones of both varieties, Predator and Reaper, is the CIA’s favourite sport in real time, which even Mr Obama recently mentioned, with levity though, to deride the hapless squirters. In jest he warned the members of a pop group his daughters had a fancy for: “Two words for you– Predator drones. You’ll never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”

No, Mr President, you aren’t. Who understands your sense of humour better than the squirters, the live targets of the videogames your spy agency plays out in Fata? Jane Mayer, in her article for the New Yorker (“The Predator War,” Oct 26, 2009), quoted a CIA official who referred to the drone attacks in the following words: “People who have seen an air strike live on a [computer] monitor described it as both awe-inspiring and horrifying. ‘You could see these little figures scurrying, and explosion going off, and when the smoke cleared there was just rubble and charred stuff’.’ ” “Human beings running for cover are such a common sight that they inspired a slang term, squirters,” Mayer went on.

Mayer recalled meeting a social worker from Miranshah who, on arriving home, found it hit by a drone. The drone strike had killed three people whose fully burned bodies could only be recognised by their legs and hands. One body was still burning when he reached the site. To his horror, he learned that the dead were his close relations, including a boy aged about eight years. The charred body parts could not be collected in one piece so they had to be collected in plastic bags.

Yet, the appetite of the drone operators to kill had not sated. Within fifteen minutes of the first strike, the second drone arrived to incinerate those gathered to nurse the wounded and attend to the dead. As a result, six more people turned into charred stuff, including the brother of the one died in the first strike. It turned out they all were ordinary folks busy in their daily household chores when death came upon them–death by Hellfire. While death by drones relieves a few of their suffering, many are swept away by the blast to ram against roofs and walls, sustaining brain concussions and broken limbs, thus disabled for life.

Imagine a group of CIA drone operatives, sitting in air-conditioned comfort and watching on the computer monitors another group of men, women, and children dashing for cover to save their lives. Could the operatives for a moment imagine themselves in place of the squirters? They couldn’t, because they belonged to a civilised nation while the cavemen they were hunting down were better off dead than alive. Besides, they provided an opportunity for live sport.

The death toll by drones has crossed 1,200 in Fata, which is a rather conservative estimate, because no organisation is known to keep an accurate tally of the dead. Although it was the Bush administration which initiated drone strikes in the tribal belt, Mr Obama seems more enthusiastic than his predecessor about using drones. No wonder the drone strikes have now multiplied manifold.

Eighteen missiles were fired on May 10 alone. But it remains a mystery where the drones operate from. A large majority thinks it’s a domestic affair.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore.

Email: pinecity@gmail.com

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Article Published In EXPRESS By Tauseef Ahmad Khan
Article Published In EXPRESS By Tauseef Ahmad Khan
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