On Tuesday, important and unprecedented testimony was heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee in the form of Yemeni journalist Farea al-Muslimi, who spoke movingly about the human toll America's drone assassination program is having on him, his village and the peoples of Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere.
In his testimony (video embedded after the break), Muslimi – whose education was funded by the State Department, and who has deep affection for the United States – began by stating:
I went to the U.S. as an ambassador for Yemen, and I came back to Yemen as an ambassador of the U.S. I could never have imagined that the same hand that changed my life, and took it from a miserable to a promising one, would also drone my village.He went on to describe his experience in another village, and how these experiences are not just terrorizing his people and killing the innocent, but hardening them to sympathize with hardened militants:
Most of the world has never heard of Wessab. But just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers. The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine.
[The villagers] were moving erratically and frantically pointing toward the sky. Based on their past experiences with drone strikes, they told us that the thing hovering above us -– out of sight and making a strange humming noise -– was an American drone. My heart sank. I was helpless. It was the first time that I had earnestly feared for my life, or for an American friend’s life in Yemen. I was standing there at the mercy of a drone. I also couldn’t help but think that the operator of this drone just might be my American friend with whom I had the warmest and deepest friendship in America.It is time for Americans, as a country and a civil society, to understand that our drone killing program abroad is not just killing innocent civilians, but it is killing those diplomatic inroads our ambassadors and diplomats – lay and professional – work so hard to make.
My mind was racing and my heart was torn. I was torn between the great country that I know and love and the drone above my head that could not differentiate between me and some AQAP militant. It was one of the most divisive and difficult feelings I have ever encountered. That feeling, multiplied by the highest number mathematicians have, gripped me when my village was droned just days ago. It is the worst feeling I have ever had. I was devastated for days because I knew that the bombing in my village by the United States would empower militants.
Our drone program is not protecting America. It is making it more dangerous. It is creating our enemies, not eliminating them.