Why Do They Hate Us?
Azkar wanted to tell his story. He approached Paqui Wieland, one of the Code Pink peace delegates mingling with the crowd of Pakistani and international journalists in the large hall of the Islamabad Marriot Hotel. Paqui switched on her voice recorder. I drew closer to listen.
“My young cousin,” said Azkar, “was a civil engineer. He was helping to build up our country.” Embittered against the United States and NATO for the carnage caused by drones, he joined the militants. Azkar’s cousin knew these people. They were his friends and neighbors. They were teachers, mothers, masons, goatherds. “He trained for two or three years to be a suicide bomber. He blew himself up. Such a loss for Pakistan.”
Paqui and I tried to enter into his grief. Of course, in no real way could we do this. How could we understand the anger and hopeless desperation that drives a promising young man to take innocent lives as well as his own, in hope that his action will somehow stop hellfire missiles? How could we understand the sadness and anger of a cousin mourning his deep personal loss as well as the loss for his country?
We could, and did, tell Azhar that we agreed that the U.S. drone attacks are illegal, immoral, and inhumane. We could, and did, tell him that we were two of a thirty-four U.S. citizens who came to Pakistan on behalf of hundreds of thousands of other U.S. citizens who oppose our government’s drone warfare.
We thanked Azkar for sharing his story, and joined the crowd settling down for the press conference, called by Imran Kahn, candidate for Prime Minister, to promote the Peace March—actually a caravan—from Islamabad to Waziristan to call attention to the murder of innocent civilians by drone strikes. In question after question, journalists focused on security aspects of the March. Did the participants have police escort? What were the possibilities of attack? What were the precautions against an assault against Imran?
The last word, however went to Laureen Booth, a featured journalist at the conference. Laureen shamed the other journalists with her passionate plea: “Please do not focus on the security of participants. The March was to focus on security of the innocent people in target areas. The purpose of this March was to end drone warfare."