There was one in Pakistan, in October 2006, which barely registered at the time, and which likely won’t be referenced now, despite the obvious comparisons to be drawn in the wake of today’s terrible atrocity is Peshawar.
There were no raging editorials condemning it in the strongest possible terms; no live blogs in which people could express their disgust and call for ‘wiping this scum off the face of the earth right now’; and no front page headlines bearing witness to atrocity.
Just a handful of articles, even in the best British newspapers.
Firstly blaming the wrong people entirely and smearing the victims as ‘militants’ (i.e. amplifying U.S. and Pakistani propaganda).
Secondly lamenting that the attack was ‘great propaganda for the Taliban’, although still no mention of the dead kids (and imagine today’s attack being described as ‘great propaganda for the Pakistani government and United States’).
And thirdly a story about people who actually matter being inconvenienced by the bombing.
But here’s what actually happened:
It is one of the worst incidents of the entire drone campaign, yet one of the least reported. A CIA strike on a madrassa or religious school in 2006 killed up to 69 children, among 80 civilians.
The attack was on a religious seminary in Chenegai, in Bajaur Agency.
CIA drones attacked on October 30, flattening much of the school. Their target was reportedly the headmaster, a known militant. According to some reports, there was also a token late contribution to the assault by Pakistani military helicopters. But dozens of children were also killed, the youngest aged seven.
Veteran BBC Urdu journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai, speaking from Peshawr, recalls visiting the village just after the strike: ‘People were devastated. I met with a father who had lost two children. He was very patient, talking of how God must have willed this, but he was clearly traumatised.’
Initially the Pakistan Army claimed that it had carried out the bombardment, even as shops and offices closed across the region and protests spread. But as the scale of the attack unfolded, the story changed. The Sunday Times carried a report from a key aide to Pakistan’s then-President Musharraf stating:
‘We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US. But there was a lot of collateral damage and we’ve requested the Americans not to do it again’.
A week after the attack, The News published the names and home villages of 80 victims. 69 were reported as children aged 17 or under.
According to the paper’s sources:
‘It was claimed that one of the deceased was only seven-year old, three were eight, three nine, one was 10, four were 11, four were 12, eight were 13, six were 14, nine were 15, 19 were 16, 12 were 17, three were 18, three were 19 and only two were 21-years-old‘.
Yousufzai is adamant that the attack was the work of the CIA: ‘I am absolutely confident, 100 per cent, that this was carried out by US drones, based on witnesses at the time and the subsequent comments of [Pakistani] government officials.’
I was reluctant to post this, even here. Because you leave yourself wide open to accusations of politicising the issue before the blood is even dry / crass insensitivity.
That said, some of the people who would accuse you of that will no doubt be politicising the issue themselves e.g. arguing that it demonstrates why the war against ‘the Taliban’ (which is shorthand for ‘Any Afghan or Pakistani who resists us, and plenty who don’t’ in propaganda usage) in Afghanistan and Pakistan is both vital and just.
And part of the reason why they can argue that the war is both vital and just – a battle for civilisation and modernity against ‘Taliban’ monsters, basically – is because the massacres that have been perpetrated by the U.S. et al as part of it, and that help fuel a lot of the insurgency, are given scant attention and then quickly forgotten about.