ISLAMABAD - Drones are counterproductive, they raise anti-American sentiments. People in the tribal areas don't like militants, but they also hate drones," said Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan at the opening ceremony of Unmanned America Drone Wars documentary, here on Saturday.
Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, the latest documentary directed by the US filmmaker Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation, premiered on Saturday in Islamabad. The screening, the first public showing of the film ahead of its worldwide premiere on October 30, brought together journalists, diplomats, activists, members of civil society and people from all walks of life. The audience was overwhelmed by the emotional scenes in the film, which depicted a very stark picture of reality as it exists in the tribal regions of Pakistan.
Unmanned investigates the impact that US drone strikes at home and abroad through more than 70 separate interviews, including a former American drone operator who shares what he has witnessed, Pakistani families mourning loved ones and seeking legal redress; investigative journalists pursuing the truth, and some of the military's top brass warning against blowback from the loss of innocent life.
Throughout Unmanned, Greenwald intersperses in-depth interviews with never-before-seen footage from the tribal regions in Pakistan to humanize those who have been impacted by US drone policy. This footage, alongside interviews with Pakistani drone survivors describes the brutal reality of drone attacks ordered during the Obama Administration. The filmmaker was supported in Pakistan by Reprieve and their counsel Shahzad Akbar.
The film highlights the stories of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, killed by a drone a mere week after he participated in a public conference in Islamabad in 2011; a school teacher, Rafiq ur Rehman, grappling with the loss of his elderly mother and the hospitalization of his children due to a drone strike last year; and the deadly attack on a tribal jirga in Datta Khel, Unmanned shows how delicate life can be in this virtual war where no one is accepting responsibility for the casualties.
In candid conversations with experts such as Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of States to Secretary of States Colin Powell; David Kilcullen, former advisor to NATO and General Petraeus, and Vicki Divoli, former deputy legal advisor to the CIA's counterterrorism Center, Unmanned reveals that these covert military actions are often imprecise and result in creating more enemies for the American people who have little knowledge of how drone targets are set and the killings carried out.
In a video message, Director Robert Greenwald told the audience, "This film was to show the world the human face on a policy that correlates groups of young men as terrorists and children and elderly as collateral damage. I want the world to see that this policy is misguided and should be reevaluated. The deaths of these civilians must not be in vain."
Jemima Khan, who also produced the film, released a statement from London to coincide with the film's screening. Amnesty international last week warned that US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, may have committed war crimes. The report highlights the case of a grandmother, Mamana Bibi, who was killed, whilst out picking vegetables.
We meet her devastated son and grandchildren in Unmanned, as well as the family of Tariq, a 16-year-old boy, who was killed in a drone strike, three days after I met him, in Islamabad.
Unmanned is a detailed look at the US and UK-backed drone attacks in Pakistan, with remarkable footage of the effects of these attacks on the ground. I believe these attacks are unethical in them, and even more crucially - make every one of us less safe, because of the recruitment opportunities they afford the extremists each time an innocent civilian is killed.
The film, to be released on October 30th throughout the world, will be available for free digitally by signing up on Brave New Films website.