Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the legal charity Reprieve, has asked Barack Obama for a guarantee that an international protest march through North West Pakistan will not be hit by the CIA’s Predator drones.
Mr Stafford Smith, along with Pakistani politician Imran Khan and a number of American and Pakistani peace activists and journalists, is set to march into Waziristan – the area of Pakistan which has borne the brunt of drone strikes – at the end of the week.
The protest seeks to expose to public view the impact which the CIA’s secret bombing campaign – carried out by robotic aircraft – is having on the area. A recent report from Stanford and New York Universities found that “drones hover[ing] twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan […] terrorises men, women, and children” in the area. (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17078 )
In a letter to the President, Mr Stafford Smith references reports that he is responsible for signing off on strikes on particular targets, and makes the following request: “When I march into Waziristan on October 7th, 2012, please do not let the CIA kill me, Imran Khan, or the others - including many Americans - who will be marching with me to highlight the plight of the innocent people, including at least 174 children, targeted by drones in recent months and years.”
His letter concludes: “I know that politicians find apologies to be uncommonly difficult, but we can do at least part of the job for you. I plan to say sorry to the innocent victims of drones in Waziristan – to Sadaullah, for example, the 15 year old student who lost both of his legs, one eye and most of his dreams when a Hellfire missile struck his home in September 2009. (That was one you authorised, Mr. President). It is only by apologizing for our errors, by showing compassion to the innocent victims, and by seeking to learn from our mistakes that we will begin to repair the damage that we have done.”
The drone protesters will be holding a press conference in Islamabad on Friday 5 October, before setting off towards Waziristan over the weekend.