American apathy toward drone strikes is appalling

For The Independent Florida Alligator.

President Barack Obama’s use of drone strikes abroad is a polarizing debate, and the legality and secrecy of the strikes is often called into question by lawmakers. The public’s top concern over the strikes, according to the Pew Research Center, is the potential endangerment of civilians’ lives.

However, a recent Congressional hearing in which five lawmakers met with survivors of a drone attack was met with disappointing coverage in the media. What was even more disappointing, however, was the lack of turnout by members of Congress. Only five representatives showed up.

The survivors — a schoolteacher, Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children — presented a harrowing account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rehman’s mother and injured the two children in a remote tribal region of Pakistan last October.

According to Common Dreams, a nonprofit independent news center, “’Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,’ Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Obama last week. ‘The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed — a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.’

“’But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,’ Rafiq continued. ‘No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable.’”

He concluded, ‘Quite simply, nobody seems to care.’”

Rehman’s 13-year-old son, Zubair, gave a heartbreaking statement.

“I no longer love blue skies,” he said. “In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey.”

The family’s testimony reportedly caused the translator to break down in tears during the hearing.

Outside of The Guardian, The New Yorker and Al Jazeera America, the hearing has received little attention from American media. And, hello, only five representatives showed up to listen to the Rehmans’ gut-wrenching testimony: Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who called the hearing, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).

Americans — especially lawmakers and the media — seem to be content with inaction. Aside from grassroots protests, the drone strikes seem to be met with collective apathy.

Holocaust survivor and professor Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

The drone problem is no longer rooted simply in politics. Civilian lives are endangered, and attacks such as the one on Rehman’s family, with no rhyme or reason, prove that power is going unchecked within the federal government.

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