Long time peace activist, Kathy Kelly, is co-coordinator of the Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Kelly just returned from her twelfth trip to Afghanistan, and is now trekking 195 miles across Iowa, with other members of her group and other peace groups, to call attention to the extreme violence and suffering she says is, in large part, a direct result of U.S. military occupation there. And a real killer at the core of the policy, asserts Kelly, is the expanding and “deadly” U.S. drone program there.
I caught up with Kelly, via telephone, last Thursday, as she continued to walk the 18 miles she was planning to cover by that day’s end. The peace activist described in detail some of the things she saw and heard on her most recent trip to poverty-stricken and war-torn Afghanistan. She emphasized, time and again, that the situation on the ground there, for everyday people, is both tragic and deadly. And the fear of being droned to death by the U.S. military or murdered by the Taliban as collaborators has now driven millions of people out of the exquisitely beautiful Afghan countryside into the capital, Kabul, which has little to offer in the way of work, housing or food for the 5 million people who now try desperately in any way they can to make ends meet.
Kelly recounted one horrific story after another, regarding the impact of U.S. Drone policy. “There were two young men who were studying to be doctors,” said Kelly on June 20th. “One doctor was a pediatrics specialist, and the other was in his third year of medical school. They were in a car driving along the road that happened to be going near an airport, and there had been a suicide bomb attack at the airport,” said Kelly, “so immediately the skies were covered with surveillance [drones], and out of fear for their lives these two guys and their driver, Hekmatullah, dove out of the car, because they thought they’d be safer if they weren’t in a vehicle, just huddled along the roadside, but to no avail. A missile hit them directly, and the driver was instantly killed. The young student doctors survived the initial attack,” said Kelly “and they could be alive and with us today,” but instead of seeking immediate medical care for the budding doctors, the U.S. military, upon arrival, hand cuffed them and then sought orders about next steps.
“After the U.S. military arrived,” said Kelly, “they handcuffed them, as they were bleeding profusely, and on the roadside. One of the young men, Siraj, pleaded for his life. ‘Please, please, I am doctor,” he said, “let me live, please save my life.’ And they didn’t try to save his life. He died on the roadside; he bled to death. They took the other one to an airport and there seemed that there was a possibility that he might be transported or medically evacuated. But they must have taken some time before the orders could be given, and he bled to death in the airport…They’re bleeding profusely on the roadside, they’re begging for help, they are handcuffed, and they are allowed to die.”
Kelly said “another man told us about how there was a day when children, little children had gone out to collect fuel on a mountain side, and I’ve heard this story repeatedly told. They were mistaken in the early morning hours for being possible fighters and all of them were killed. There were nine children, in all…”
Kelly says there is no end to the tragic stories of deadly violence that result from U.S. military policy. “Another man talked about how two farmers had gone out with the daughter of one of the farmers, to work in their fields. And a tank fired missiles and killed them,” Kelly continued “We also talked to some people who’ve been attacked by night raids,” she said, “and one man talked about how suddenly his house was targeted for a raid, and U.S. forces came into his home, killed his two nieces right before his eyes. They were preparing themselves to go to bed, they had long beautiful hair. ‘How could anybody think that they were insurgents?’ he asked me. So he closed up his house, and his family left and came to Kabul.” [++]