Pakistani family testifies to empty room on Hill about US Drone that killed Granny

Congressman Alan Grayson held a hearing on the Hill on Tuesday on civilian deaths in US drone strikes. A Pakistani family, the Ur Rahmans, testified on the death by drone of their grandmother while she was tending her garden. Nine-year-old Nabila Ur Rahman was injured in the strike that killed he grandmother. It was a moving event, with the translator tearing up. But only 4 congressmen showed up. Presumably they were too busy taking food out of the mouths of poor children to bother.

Although the US government maintains that few civilians have been killed in drone strikes in northern Pakistan, the Pakistani government estimates that US drones have killed 400 to 600 civilian non-combatants. Sometimes the CIA has fired two drones one after another in hopes of killing first responders. While some first responders may be militants, not all are, and this tactic is a war crime.

RT reports on the hearing:

In his recent visit to Washington, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pressed President Obama to end drone strikes on his country, saying that they violate Pakistani sovereignty. Wikileaks showed that one of his predecessors secretly authorized the strikes, but Sharif said his own government does not condone them and is determined to be transparent.

50 Responses

  1. Note the difference in the welcome extended by Washington and the media to Taliban victim Malalka, who even got an audience with Obama, and the backs turned away from the victims of Obama’s drones.

  2. I find it interesting that all five members of congress to turn up to the hearing, happened to be democrats. Despite this endless anti war rhetoric from some of the libertarian, non-necon members of the Republican party, they still seem to support the US covert means of warfare.

    Additionally one of the members of congress who did show up to the hearing, John Conyers, I have huge respect for. The only member of congress I could truly describe as progressive.

    • John Conyers had a perfect pro-Arab voting record in Congress, according to a study published by the Arab-American Institute in the late 1980s.

      Rosa Parks was a secretary in his office from the 1960s until her retirement after she fled Alabama due to threats she received folowing her civil rights activism.

      His wife, Monica, a former Detroit City Councilperson, was recently released from federal prison following serving a sentence on a bribery conviction.

  3. Wondering if you have thoughts about al-Maliki’s op-ed plea for Apache helicopters in the NYT this morning. Seems to me that going to the Times readership for support is about as hat in hand as it gets. Wouldn’t he have better luck getting helicopters and other weapons from Iran?

    • They might make him actually pay for them (if they had them to sell, and wanted to stir the pot.) Hey, the NYT/Congressional hearing routine works for Yahoo — why not for other client states? And besides, Boeing and the mechanisms of “sale” of these sexy war toys, link to, always manage to add a little sweetener, a little dash of baksheesh, to every transaction.

      Anyone else sick unto death of the depth of the corruption? The idiocy of all this?

    • He should not get them. At the very least the NYTimes should invite Iyad Alawi to write an equal-billing guest editorial about the nature of al Maliki’s rule and methods of governance. And how al Maliki came to have so much power over Iraqi government to begin with.

  4. In the story of Philoctetes, Philoctetes, while sailing with the Greeks to Troy, is bitten by a snake; the wound from the snake begins to fester and stink. He begins to scream in agony. The stench of his wound and his cries of pain become too much for the Greeks and he is abandoned on the island of Chryse (or Lemnos in other versions).

    The empty room is Chryse, and the Pakistani family Philoctetes. And the absent Greeks? All of us, we are all absent Greeks, who prefer not to see or to simply dismiss the pain of others. Of course, our moral cowardice in not wanting to see such pain is all the worse, for we are also the snake that bites. So fast to inflict pain, but never having the courage to face its consequences.

    • Excellent narration, just imagine what you would write if you had coffee? ;)
      Of course I am going to use your wonderful quote.

  5. How many of the attacks were by CIA drones and how many were by Pakistani helicopters and aircraft?

    • Yeah her picture seems like Pak air force jets in formation, not a tiny solo drone!

      • It hardly matters. The Pakistanis have tacitly agreed to the drone strikes, so whether Pakistani jets or US drones did it, it is unfortunate either way.

        What is unstated here is that it was not only Congressman Alan Grayson who brought the Pakistani family before the hearing, but also Robert Greenwald, the documentary filmmaker who has a soon to be released documentary on drones. Is it coincidental that Greenwald is involved? Or might he be drumming up advanced support for his documentary?

        A few days ago, there was a post in this blog that detailed the Amnesty International report on the death of the grandmother, Mamana Bibi. A quote from that post is cited below.

        “Amnesty researchers spoke to Pakistani intelligence sources who said that a local Taliban fighter had used a satellite phone on a road close to where Mamana Bibi was killed about 10 minutes before the strike. The sources said they were not aware of the reason for the old woman’s killing but assumed it was related to the Taliban fighter’s proximity to her.”

        The death of Mamana Bibi demonstrates what we all know: that there are unfortunate civilian casualties as a result of the drone program. To suggest, however, that Mamana Bibi was deliberately targeted is a baseless fabrication.

        • WHICH “the Pakistanis” have “tacitly agreed” to the violation of sovereignty, again? Under what “law,” again? Bill gets an “A” for consistency at least…

  6. It’s one thing to support morally questionable actions, it’s something much worse to refuse to look at the consequences of those actions.

    The empty room is evidence of the fundamental lack of moral courage possessed by most United States Congresspeople.

  7. The United States’ drone program including the reprehensible signature strikes and abominable double-taps are illegal, immoral, and sickening. Can there be any doubt that these bombings are truly acts of terrorism and that the local populations subjected to drones flying overhead and fearing their lives could be snuffed out at any moment are relentlessly terrified by these CIA and military operations?

    As a natural born American citizen, I’m disgusted by the endless parade of horrors perpetrated by the United States government year after year in the wake of ‘9/11′ and the drone warfare program enthusiastically embraced by and dramatically escalated by our constitutional professor President Obama is as indefensible as the majority of the actions undertaken by the ever-expanding military-industrial-surveillance state complex.

    The fact that this very important hearing was almost entirely ignored by Congress is as revealing as it is pathetic. Even if individual members agree with the policy of the extra-judicial slaughtering of civilians of other countries, whether that perspective was arrived at by thoughtful consideration or more likely and frequently the case by way of willful ignorance, at the very least, they should all be lining up to express their deepest and most sincere condolences to this poor family victimized by the United States of America.

    I used to think that America deserved better than the Congress we have, but given the striking numbers of mind-bogglingly ignorant, shameless and craven self-serving opportunists and future lobbyists are being sent there by millions of Americans who vote the clowns into office over and over, and the endless capacity of Americans for self-delusion, ignorance, self-indulgence, indifference, xenophobia, prejudice, hate, greed, gun-nuttery, extreme hyper-consumption, and all manners of ecological despoilment and devastation, maybe we deserve what we’re getting from Congress, and we will deserve all of the coming whirlwinds from the myriad sour and deadly seeds we’ve sown.

    One could certainly make the case that we had/have it coming, as they say. Not only as Americans, but as humans, in the way we collectively treat the very planet that sustains us and the countless species we’re extinguishing for fun and profit. “I wanna see the ground give way….I wanna watch it all go down….ma’ please flush it all away….”

    • Yes, lots of doubt! There is evidence that most FATA residents support the drone-strikes, bc they are targeting Taliban who are attacking the traditional governance system. Peeps in FATA are not dumb–the Taliban is horrible!

      link to

      • Bill,
        when you say “traditional governance system,”
        R U referring to the indigenous (Pakhtun) shura system of local elders,
        or the Agency system of outside officials (from Islamabad)(mostly Punjabi) who officially represent the region in the national government ?

        – – – – —

        the linked article said the locals would rather be threatened by occasional drones overhead, than by the artillery of the Pakistani Army, if given that choice.
        I see that as different than “locals want to be threatened by drones.”

        In other contexts,
        the US military figures out who the “terrorists” are by paying locals to finger the bad guys.
        I think its the same with drone strikes in FATA.
        I would expect thaat the tribes being paid to finger the “terrorists” in FATA would like to see that system continue.

      • Bill criticizes others for, ah, “not reading” the links they post. This Economist article, from a source with shall one say a conservative bias, actually says, in part:

        One man from South Waziristan heatedly told her that he and his family approved of the remote-controlled aircraft and wanted more of them patrolling the skies above his home. Access to the tribal regions is very difficult for foreign journalists; but several specialists and researchers on the region, who did not want to be identified, say there is at least a sizeable minority in FATA who share that view.

        Surveys are also notoriously difficult to carry out in FATA. A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military.

        MOST FATA residents? Maybe not, eh? And there’s a whole lot of complexities that branch off from the central misrepresentation that one hopes might appear in our Rulers’ briefings on “ground truth,” though that won’t change their behavior, just the propaganda…

        • Just to clarify, Brian and Mr. McPhee, the “Bill” who posted the link to the “Economist” article is someone else calling himself “Bill.” I am the Bill who has been posting here for a lengthy period of time and with whom you both generally disagree. By the way, I posted the comment below concerning the Washington Post article on the Pakistani Defense Ministry’s much lower estimates of civilian drone casualties.

          I have no idea who the “Bill” is who posted the “Economist” article, but he has nothing to do with me.



    • The October 31 edition of the Washington Post has a very interesting article on drones, noting that, “The Pakistani Government said Wednesday [October 30] that three percent of the people killed in US drone strikes since 2008 were civilians.” The article continues: The number, which was provided by the Defense Ministry to lawmakers, is much lower than past government calculations and estimates by independent organizations.” According to the Ministry, 317 drone strikes have killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians since 2008.

      This latest estimate coming from the Pakistani Government has thrown Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Raporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, into a bit of a tizzy, as it differs from the much higher figures given to him by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry. This could serve to blunt Mr. Emmerson’s little vendetta against the United States, and he has called on the Pakistani Government to explain the discrepancy.

      • And the Pakistani “government” definition of “civilians,” for purposes of counting Bugsplats, is…

        Jumping right over, of course, the “wisdom” vel non of shooting up a bunch of people who threaten your inchoate and infinite definition of “US Interests” just how, again? And simply presuming that what “our security forces” are doing is “legal,” or “tacitly approved” by a very different and distant bunch of Pakistanis who, like Karzai and alMaliki and other clients, just love infusions of US wealth, “training” and weapons to “subjugate and pacify” those unruly tribesmen who won’t even pay the tribute, the baksheesh, to the “central government” that does so much “for” them.

        Keep the discussion on body count — that which-way-the-toilet-paper-hangs debate nicely obscures the other questions… Love your characterization of Ben Emmerson, by the way, so honest, so Serious…

  8. “But only 4 congressmen showed up.”

    It would be tough to come face to face with the victims of your policies, and Congress has never been noted for moral courage.

    • ” Congress has never been noted for moral courage.”

      In fairness it should be said that there have been and are exemplary senators and representatives in Congress. Unfortunately, they are in a distinct minority.

  9. Is there a source for the comment that the CIA launches drones to purposefully kill first responders? That’s a powerful claim.


    • Not just “first responders,” how about hitting funeral processions too?

      One, of many many, bits of context: link to

      Try googling (or your favorite less evil browser) “double-tap drone strikes.” Not too hard to find, eh? Hundreds of entries, with lots of outward links, from a lot of sources, not all of which are self-referential, with and without outrage au jus…

      Of course, one can diffuse and defuse the controversy by claiming that “security elements” of the array of bits called, clumsily and incompletely, “the government” of Pakistan are all okay with this, supposedly (so what if the elected Ministries are, ah, NOT okay), without bothering to cite any basis. And blow further past the fundamental question of “Basic Idiocy and Breach of Sovereignty and even Moral Badness” by spending hours debating whether the CIA’s “own drone program” (bought by us idiot taxpayers) is doing this, or the military’s own drone program (also bought by us idiot taxpayers). Both of which, of course, are “security elements” of the array of bits called, clumsily and incompletely and in a fog of deniability, “the government” of the US Empire….

    • “David Kilcullen is no soft-headed peacenik.

      He’s a 41-year-old former Australian army officer who served in Iraq as a top advisor to U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus

      “We need to call off the drones,” Kilcullen said.

      Another problem, Kilcullen says, is that “using robots from the air … looks both cowardly and weak.”

      In the Pashtun tribal culture of honour and revenge, face-to-face combat is seen as brave; shooting people with missiles from 20,000 feet is not. ”

      no kidding.

      link to

      • It doesn’t just “look cowardly”.

        It elfin’ is cowardly. Nothing else needs be said.

      • .
        Kilkullen styles hisself as a “synergizer,” bringing together ideas from all over and making new ideas out of them.
        To the people he has plagiarized from, they frame it differently.
        Either way, I’m glad to hear he said that.
        2 bad his former mentor doesn’t take a stand on something important like this. P4, or any of the retired among Bush’s Generals who are now cashing in.

  10. It seems to me that most, or maybe almost all of the civilian drone deaths are due to the CIA’s own drone program
    and few or almost none being due to the Military’s own drone program. They are two separate programs. If my understanding is correct, would cancelling the CIA’s own drone program solve a lot of the problem?

    • No. The entire issue revolves around accountability.

      If you cannot (will not) take responsibility for your actions, then you are a coward and deserve public punishment.

      It is like cowards contributing political money citing “free speech” and wanting autonomy. That is not speech. Ever.

      Stand up and take the criticism or shut up. They want to be the “man behind the curtain” and use their monies to overpower the normal marketplace of ideas. Fine, but, come out from behind the curtain. Or, acknowledge, as a candidate, that your supporters are afraid of public examination. Name the cowards.

    • .
      Apologies in advance for not checking before posting,
      but I was under the impression that US military drones launched in Afghanistan are directed against targets in Afghanistan,
      CIA drones launched in Afghanistan are directed against targets across the “border” with Pakistan.

      If correct, that goes a long way toward explaining the disparities between the 2 programs in civilian casualty rates.

  11. Until now, I had only heard of killing first responders as a terrorist tactic. Must we update that list of “state sponsors of terrorism”?

    • .
      translate “shock and awe” into common terminology.
      It means “terrorize the population.”
      The US government has been the largest state sponsor of shock and awe for decades.

      Truman’s justification for the second nuke strike, the one on Nagasaki, was that it would terrorize the Japanese civilian population into withdrawing support for defending their own homeland against ground invasion by untermenschen.
      He rationalized that such terrorism means were justified by the end of the war ends.

      In the halls of the USAF war college (Air University, Maxwell AFB,) doctrine calls for shocking and aweing the civilian population of the adversary.
      Much easier than having to find and destroy enemy military capability.

      • “Truman’s justification for the second nuke strike, the one on Nagasaki, was that it would terrorize the Japanese civilian population into withdrawing support for defending their own homeland against ground invasion by untermenschen.”

        Brian, Truman ordered the second bomb on Nagasaki to convince the Emperor and the Japanese War Cabinet that continuation of the war was futile, in the hopes that they would capitulate, making an invasion of the home islands unnecessary. Although the War Cabinet wanted to continue, the Emperor decided to surrender. The bomb had nothing to do with the civilian population withdrawing support for defending the home islands. The civilian population’s support, or lack thereof, did not enter into the thinking of the Emperor, the War Cabinet, or the High Command.

        • In addition to other talents, Bill is now a retroactive mind-reader. And persistent purveyor of that narrow, jingoist version of “winners’ history…”

      • Thanks, Brian. “state sponsor of shock and awe” puts it excellently. May I use that phrase?

        I’m glad never to have Truman sized decisions. The flip side of “uneasy lies the head”, living with your own decisions.

  12. What I can’t understand is if the Pakistani government really does not condone the drone strikes why doesn’t Pakistan do something about them? Surely the Pakistan army or airforce is capable of shooting down drones. It’s very difficult for me to believe that Pakistan isn’t complicit in the drone strikes which clearly violate Pakistan sovereignty.

    Robert Shore

      • .
        Nick, I think you raise the question of whether the Pakistanni government controls the Pakistani military.

        Because I think I could shoot down 50% of American drones over FATA, if I wanted to, for about $ 5 million.
        I wouldn’t even need military aircraft to do it.

        Guessing, 50% of drones might amount to 30 – 50 UAV’s.
        And I assume they mostly commute from Jalalabad AF to Miran Shah, then loiter there.
        I assume they’re so thick over that town that the USAF has an ATC system in place.

        • Anyone raise the question whether “the US government,” whatever that is, “controls” the US Military, in all its parts and procurements? Pretty clear that the State Security Apparatus is a law unto itself, though one might by careful definitional delineation declare that those “things” are part of “the government” that takes in our ordinary-person wealth and delivers instability and violence and corruption…

        • The Pakistani military has certainly exerted its power over the government enough times for that possibility to feature in Pakistan govt’s decision-making.

          I have heard that under Musharraff, most of the military aid intended to fight Taliban got diverted to increasing posture in Kashmir.

          If ever true, it may not be now.

          I’d think defence of Kashmir would be popular with voters as well as with generals.

          If the Pakistan govt ever objects to drones, who would act in their defence, apart from the Taliban continuing their belligerence against the West?

    • …and ” for now” is all Dick Cheney and Lloyd Blankfein and probably even Barack H. Obama and of course all those rake-it-in TV preachers, along with too many of the rest of us, actually cares about. Middle finger to the planet and any posterity, with a hearty “What ya gonna do about it? Huh, bubbie? I’ll be gone!”

  13. “In a major new report published this week, the most comprehensive study of the US drones programme conducted from a human rights perspective, Amnesty has reviewed the use of drones in Pakistan’s north-western tribal areas where most drone strikes have taken place. The report* condemns the almost complete absence of transparency around the US drone programme and concludes that the USA has carried out unlawful killings, some of which could amount to war crimes.” by Kate Allen – link to

    Amnesty report: USA must be held to account for drone killings in Pakistan – link to

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