Why did America fire missiles at a grandma?
WASHINGTON — Two new reports out last week cast a disturbing light on America's drone war. One by Amnesty International focuses on recent strikes in Pakistan. Another, by Human Rights Watch, assesses U.S. targeted killings in Yemen. Most discomfiting, in the Amnesty report, is the story of Mamana Bibi, a 68-year-old grandmother killed by hellfire missiles while tending her garden on Oct. 24, 2012:
“Before her family's eyes, Mamana Bibi was blown into pieces by at least two Hellfire missiles fired concurrently from a US drone aircraft.”
A second strike hit the field nearby a few minutes later, badly injuring one of Mamana Bibi's grandsons who had run to the scene of the first explosion.
The authors write that the "evidence indicates that Mamana Bibi was unlawfully killed," according to international humanitarian law, and suggest that whoever is responsible be "brought to justice in fair trials."
The reports come at a time when the administration is signaling its intention to shift away from the use of drones toward other counterterrorism tactics. However, as the report argues, President Barack Obama's few statements on the topic indicate that he favors a policy shift away from drones rather than legal guidelines on when and how they can be used. The possibility that officials could be held responsible for incidents like the one that killed Mamana Bibi was always remote. It also seems inevitable that they will happen again.
Joshua Keating, Slate