A note from the Editor…

I recently read an extraordinary article entitled “I am on the Kill List. This is what it feels like to be hunted by drones.” It was published in The Independent, a British newspaper, and was written by an Afghan man named Malik Jalal, who claims to be on a drone-strike “Kill List.”

I liked this piece a lot because, unlike most articles about drones, it’s from the perspective of a target. It does a lot more to humanize the victims of these assassinations than a Western writer, even a well-intentioned one, can ever hope to do.

Particularly striking was his description of how he realized that he was being targeted for death. It took three botched strikes — all of which killed other people who happened to be in close physical proximity to him, a car that looked like his, or the recipient of a phone call from him — for him to comprehend that the drones buzzing high above the mountainous Waziristan terrain were hunting him.

A few months after this realization, he describes an enormous strike that killed many of his associates in the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC), a group of community leaders who work to peacefully mediate conflict between the Taliban and local authorities:

“Five months later, on 27 March 2011, an American missile targeted a Jirga, where local Maliks — all friends and associates of mine — were working to resolve a local dispute and bring peace. Some 40 civilians died that day, all innocent, and some of them fellow members of the NWPC. I was early to the scene of this horror.

“Like others that day, I said some things I regret. I was angry, and I said we would get our revenge. But, in truth, how would we ever do such a thing? Our true frustration was that we — the elders of our villages — are now powerless to protect our people.

“I have been warned that Americans and their allies had me and others from the Peace Committee on their Kill List. I cannot name my sources, as they would find themselves targeted for trying to save my life. But it leaves me in no doubt that I am one of the hunted.”

It’s very difficult, emotionally, to read articles like this. The comments section for the article was a laboratory-perfect example of the “just world fallacy,” through which we delude ourselves into thinking that victims deserve what they get. When I accessed the article, the most recent comment was literally, “[sic] Silly idiot Mo splatter reap what you sew find what you intended for others.”

Many others followed in a similar vein. The reality is that many people simply cannot accept that they bear any portion of responsibility for the high-tech state-terrorism the West inflicts on innocent people in the name of combating terrorism as such.

“Blowback” is a term coined by the CIA to denote the unintended harmful consequences on home populations as a result of covert operations that said home populations are unaware of. It’s a good term because it accurately describes the situation the West finds itself in at the moment. Our leaders create a living hell for foreign peoples. They grow to hate us and lash back violently. Western citizens perceive these acts of violence as having no discernible cause, and are therefore conned into supporting violent retaliation. And thus the death-dance perpetuates itself.

I don’t know how this cycle will be broken, but we have to try. The first step is paying attention.

Sam Hartley, Editor-in-Chief