The first U.S. drone strike was conducted by the CIA in October 2001 in Afghanistan, supposedly, targeting Osama bin Laden. Since then, the United States has conducted thousands of drone strikes in countries that include Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that, over the last fourteen years, over 6,000 people, at least, have been killed by U.S. drone strikes.
[Read More: How Angela Merkel & Barack Obama Killed My Cousin]
With both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump declaring their support for continuing the drone program, Emran Feroz’s story about the death of Pakistani cab driver, Mohammad Azam is a harsh reminder of the program’s inexcusable, yet inevitable, consequences. Writing in The New York Times, Feroz reports:
When Mohammad Azam started his shift on May 21, it was just another sunny morning in Taftan, a small desert town in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province. Like taxi drivers around the world, he planned to spend this day waiting for customers, and navigating through traffic when he could find a fare. He had no idea it would be his last day alive.
By that evening, Mr. Azam’s body had been found burned to death, barely identifiable. He had the bad luck of picking up the target of an American drone strike: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was then leader of the Afghan Taliban.
It was not even clear at first that Mullah Mansour had been killed. While the Americans and the Afghan government in Kabul were sure they had gotten their man, many others demanded proof.
In the case of Mullah Mansour, his identity was finally confirmed when Pakistani authorities matched the victim’s DNA with one of the Taliban leader’s relatives. And then the case was closed. Days later, an even more ruthless and radical leader stepped in to fill Mullah Mansour’s shoes. The other victim of the strike, Mr. Azam, a taxi driver, was little more than an afterthought.
The United States Department of Defense, for its part, says that, according to its intelligence, it “has assessed Mullah Mansour’s driver to be a combatant,” but has offered little else by way of explanation. But, as The Times and others have reported, the United States frequently treats any military-age male killed in a strike as a combatant.
According to Mr. Qasim, on the day of his death, Mr. Azam was informed that a local businessman was waiting for a cab. Mullah Mansour routinely traveled with a fake passport under a different name. Posing as a businessman, he often crossed international borders. Given all of the tricks and subterfuge Mullah Mansour used to conceal his identity, it is hard to imagine that a regular taxi driver could have discovered the terrifying truth about his passenger.
Even if Mr. Azam knew Mullah Mansour, we should still ask ourselves if it was legitimate to kill him.
You can read Feroz’s full story here.