Last week, lawyers representing the victims of CIA drone attacks wrote to the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, to inform him that we were going to bring him to justice for his complicity in the illegal killing of Pakistan citizens.
We gave him a few days to consider his position before we went public because, as well as being a clear breach of international law, the new protocol announced for the US drone campaign has effectively painted a target on poor Mr Munter, and invited angry Pakistanis to shoot at him. My own purpose in seeking justice is, not least, to help avoid anyone pulling the trigger.
Here is the problem, already well-known in Pakistan: whenever the CIA wants to fire a missile at someone in its undeclared war in the Pakistan border regions, they have to get the Ambassador's view before they press the kill button. Presumably Mr Munter gets a précis of the dubious intelligence that the CIA is using, and then gives a thumbs up or thumbs down, along the lines of the Emperor in the Colosseum. The Predator drone then spews forth a hellfire missile, and various people end up dead.
Mr Munter assumed this role sometime before the deaths of 16-year-old Tariq Aziz and his 12-year-old cousin Waheed Khan on October 31, 2011. I had met Tariq three days earlier when he came to a meeting in Islamabad. When he subsequently died, he was no terrorist on a mission - just a teenager driving to pick up his auntie, who was coming to stay. To the "anonymous official US sources" who say these two children were militants I say: show us some evidence. I stand ready and willing to demonstrate that they were not, and to provide the pitiable video their weeping families at the funeral.
Logically, we know that Mr Munter either agreed to this double homicide, or he objected to it. If he agreed, he can presumably share with us what false intelligence led him to think it was a good idea. If he objected, then surely he will be the first witness in an open inquiry into how the CIA made such a horrible mistake (then, and the day before, when the CIA killed four chromite miners who they described as "six militants").
The sheer recklessness - as opposed to the criminality - of the current procedure may be readily understood if we consider moving the shoe onto the other foot: Imagine that Sherry Rehman, the new Pakistan ambassador to Washington, announced in the Wall Street Journal that she was authorizing the assassination of various Americans in the Texas border region with Mexico, as part of her nation's 'War on Drugs.' What would the irate parents of two innocent child-victims do? Presumably, they would ask that she be prosecuted for the death penalty in a Texas court, as a conspirator in the double homicide.
Mr Munter is not truly the "bad guy". The Department of State has been trying to rein in the CIA, since the illegal war in Pakistan is making US diplomacy increasingly difficult. US ambassadors have been forced to live with the international consequences of a number of counterproductive practices in recent years, from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo Bay. Level heads in the Department of State have been quiet but insistent voices calling for a rethink, but reason has not yet won the debate.
Even though Mr Munter is in our legal sights, I hope that our latest gambit will help provide him with his own ammunition: to help him put the State Department's case that every drone strike in Pakistan exacerbates extremism in Pakistan and makes his task more difficult. The families of Tariq and Waheed were not the only losers on October 31; the security of everyone from Waziristan to Washington was placed in greater jeopardy.
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