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Drones and Revenge: How a Pashtun Man Pursues Justice

During the CODEPINK delegation to Pakistan, the delegates had a chance to meet with many of the drone victims and family members from Waziristan. One man they met was Karim Khan, from the tiny village of Machikhel in North Waziristan. Khan, a large man in his late fifties with striking features, including a long beard, and wearing traditional tribal garb, surprised the group when he revealed that he spoke English and has worked as a journalist for outlets such as Al Jazeera.


Khan told his story about how on December 31, 2009, a drone strike leveled his home, killing his 18 year-old son and his brother. The third man that died the night of that strike was a stonemason who had traveled to the town to work on the village mosque.

The news reports alleged that the target of the drone had been a Taliban commander, Haji Omar, but Khan insisted that Haji Omar had been nowhere near the village that night. He also said that the Taliban commander was reported dead several times by the media and Khan wondered aloud, how many times could this man be killed?

Khan said his son had just graduated from high school, and his brother was a teacher at the local school. Both were government employees. Khan’s brother tried to teach his students that education was far more powerful than weapons. The drone strike that killed him sent them a very different message.

While recounting his story, Khan became visibly upset as he showed the photos of his dead son and brother, and recalled picking up their body parts to prepare them for the Muslim burial.

A CODEPINK delegate asked Khan how the US government could make amends. Would he accept an apology and compensation? He scowled at the idea of compensation. “How can money ever replace the loss of my beloved son?” As for apologies, he ridiculed the idea. “You can say sorry, you can say sorry twice, you can say sorry three times, but I will never accept it.” He went on to explain that revenge is a key part of Pashtun culture. “I will never, never, forget or forgive what the Americans did, and if I had the chance to kill an American soldier, I would do it.”

This seemed inconsistent coming from an educated man, a journalist, who until then had maintained a warm demeanor. He seemed very far from someone who would pick up a gun. Some people in the delegation were clearly jarred by this blunt response, thinking he seemed like someone an who would pursue a more nonviolent approach, but then he reminded us that US culture is not that different. “After 9/11,” he asked, “would the Americans have accepted an apology from Al Qaeda? Never.” True enough. The torrent of violence the US has unleashed in exacting revenge post-9/11 has by far surpassed the number of people killed in the 9/11 attack.

Leah Bolger, president of the antiwar group Veterans for Peace, tried to convince Khan that it wouldn’t be right to exact revenge upon US soldiers because they’re not the ones responsible for the policy, but Khan would have none of it. “I hold the American soldiers directly responsible for the death of our loved ones,” he said. “They should not even be in this region.” Khan insisted that there would never be peace until the Americans leave Afghanistan.

After the meeting broke up, Toby Blome, a delegate from San Francisco who has spent many days and nights vigiling outside of the Creech Air Force Base where the drones are remotely piloted, wanted to clarify what Khan meant when he expressed a desire to seek revenge. She asked what he would do with drones if he had access to the technology. He said he would use the drones to attack other drones. When asked if he would fly a drone over the United States and drop missiles, he looked astonished at the mere suggestion. “Of course I wouldn’t do that,” he said, “because I might kill innocent people.”

Blome, recalling the exchange, was moved by Khan’s insistence that innocents not be caught up in his desire for revenge, unlike the American response to 9/11, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan. “How ironic that through the eyes of Americans, said Blome, “that it is Khan who would be considered the terrorist.”

Despite Khan’s strong desire for revenge, he’s actually pursing justice in a non-violent way. He was the first family member of a drone victim to take the issue into the Pakistani courts. With the help of human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, he sent a legal notice to the American embassy in Islamabad, detailing the wrongful deaths of his brother and son, and accusing the CIA of grossly violating the universal declaration of human rights.

A year after his family was killed, Karim Khan spoke outside a police station after he had lodged a complaint, asking that Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Islamabad, be forbidden from leaving Pakistan until he answered to the charges against him. (While CIA agents’ identities are secret, Banks’ name had been revealed in the local press.) “We appealed to the authorities to not let Jonathan Banks escape from Pakistan,” Khan said.

While the accusation against CIA agent Jonathan Banks made headlines in Pakistan, Banks was allowed to flee the country. But in the ensuing months, Khan organized other families of victims and jointly they have been pressing their cases in several lawsuits now pending in Pakistani courts.

As Robert Naiman, a delegate and policy analyst with Just Foreign Policy, pointed out, “While Karim Khan talks about revenge, he lives his life in an exemplary fashion, using nonviolent means to pursue justice.” The US government would do well to follow his example.




Medea Benjamin (medea@globalexchange.org), cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Her previous books include Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart., and (with Jodie Evans) Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide)


Added: Oct-5-2012 Occurred On: Oct-5-2012
By: Pakistani_Empire
In:
Other Middle East
Tags: pakistan, afghan, yemen
Location: Pakistan (load item map)
Views: 1689 | Comments: 50 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 4 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
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  • Fuck Code Pink, nothing but a bunch of Lesbian hags!

    Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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    • Comment of user 'landsolo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
    • @landsolo Oh look, an American with common sense! Quickly everyone, before he turns on the TV again!

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    • Comment of user 'landsolo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
    • @landsolo ''I haven't owned or watched a television in 8 or 9 years''

      This explains your common sense.

      Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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    • Comment of user 'landsolo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • If jackass like this guy didn't help to harbor those militant mofos, all Pakis dead from drone strikes in Pakistan would be alive. If he didn't get that in his head over the course of 9 years of war in Afghanistan, just desserts.

    Posted Oct-17-2012 By 

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  • Do these Pashtun men know the Codepink bitches are Lesbian feminists who want to steal their women and abort their babies? Not yet, I guess. Let's see what happens when the dirt worshipers find out.

    Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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  • Comment of user 'landsolo' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • Why can't people get on? Selfishness.

    Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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  • If you came to my town and killed my family I would make it my mission in life to hunt you down and kill you anyway I could.

    Most of these people have no feelings one way or another until we end up killing their love ones as "collateral damage".

    This needs to stop. If we stayed the fuck out of these people's business to begin with we would not have had any problems. We need to stay the fuck out of the middle east. Time to remove the dozens of military bases we have in the area a More..

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    • @Syntax_Attack
      Obama? is dat you?

      Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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    • Comment of user 'MrSlave' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
    • @MrSlave
      Why doesn't Germany GTFO of Afghanistan before you open your kraut mouth

      Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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    • @MrSlave
      I don't want to go to the middle east, I want my country to remove its bases from all over the damn world (including your country). I want us to stop acting like the world's police and stop spending almost as much on defense as the rest of the world COMBINED.

      It is going to lead to our downfall and I want us to fucking stop and focus on our own country.

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    • @mutterfudder
      No, if you haven't noticed Obama is as much about bombing other countries as Bush or any other president we have had in the last 30 years.

      Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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  • I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in their Blackhawk helicopters. The infidels fired at the oil fields and they lit up like the eyes of Allah. Burning oil rained down from the sky and cooked everything it touched. I could only hide myself and cry as my goats were consumed by the fiery black liquid death. In the midst of the chaos, I could swear that I heard my goats screaming for help. As quickly as they had come, the infidels were gone. It was on that day I put a jihad on th More..

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  • pakistan is burning,Baluchs want freedom, swat wants freedom.Only punjab will be left as pakistan.

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • The big problem here of course is the assumption that he is telling the truth. We all know that there is a vigorous procedure to a drone launch. What this asshole does't say is when the tai commander was at his place. Just like the typical kiss ass lefties, they believe this guys shit uncritically. Can't wait to see this dudes shot up remains on a future post.

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • Who gives a fuck,, hallelujah ya child molesting muslim cunt

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • So much hate in here.. This man lost a son and a brother and wants his justice. Simple as that.

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • Those poor bastards had done nobody any wrong. Now you've killed their loved ones for what reason? then you ask, why you mad bro, hate 'murika? the better part is that, these people know full well that there isnt much you can do about it, they'll keep on keepin on. The whole world's gone stupid.

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • islam is cancer.

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • They werent happy their relatives could no longer pump their goats and marry their cousins, who fucking cares!!

    Posted Oct-7-2012 By 

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  • Comment of user 'rafaelcastelar' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
    • Comment of user 'MrSlave' has been deleted by author (after account deletion)!
  • And I hope the man gets his chance to put one of those goose stepping US Marines into a body bag for good.

    Sieg Heil, Obama!

    Posted Oct-6-2012 By 

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  • When asked if he would fly a drone over the United States and drop missiles, he looked astonished at the mere suggestion. “Of course I wouldn’t do that,” he said, “because I might kill innocent people.”

    Just who are the barbarians, really?

    Posted Oct-5-2012 By 

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