Why I Support an International Treaty to Ban Weaponized Drones and Drone Surveillance


Kathy Kelly | Covert Action Magazine – TRANSCEND Media Service

Organized by Veterans for Peace, large demonstration at General Atomics where attack drones are made. (Poway, California) [Source: worldbeyondwar.com]

28 Feb 2021 – At a time in my life when I barely knew drones existed, a young Lebanese mother mourning the death of her six-year-old daughter, Zainab, helped me understand how monitoring by drones terrified her and her neighbors.

It was the summer of 2006, during a war referred to as the Israeli-Hezbollah war.

Kathy Kelly in Beirut, Lebanon, during the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war. [Source: Farah Mokhtarazadei]

On July 30th, around 1:00 a.m., Israeli warplanes fired missiles at buildings in Qana, Lebanon, a small village in southern Lebanon. One missile, a bunker buster supplied by the U.S. corporation Raytheon, caused a three-story building to collapse, killing an extended family of 27 people. Fifteen of them were children.

Two weeks later, with a team of international observers, I visited Qana because of reports of a massacre there.

Driving toward the village, we saw men preparing cement structures for burials.

We entered the village on foot and saw men arranging white plastic chairs for guests who came to mourn with family members.

Four women sitting quietly in an outdoor patio invited Farah Mokhtarazadei and me to join them.

Each time a neighboring woman arrived, the women would stand and embrace one another. They had borne their pain for 18 days, since the bombs slammed into homes in their village. The mass funeral had been delayed until families could safely gather for burials.

One mother had suffered injuries. Under her veil, she wore a medical hood, and a thick brace encircled her neck.

She stiffly shifted her tall, slender body, unable to point across the street to what was once a building where frightened children huddled together for shelter during the bombing. One of those children was her six-year-old daughter, Zainab.

She winced as she tried to gesture upward. “Didn’t they know?” she asked. “Didn’t they see?”

Later, I realized she was referring to surveillance drones, overhead, which she was sure must have filmed children running back and forth between their homes and this building. Umm Zainab said we must be able to see how close the two homes were. Yes, we could see. We listened to the drone of an unmanned surveillance plane criss-crossing the skies above. Couldn’t they see?

Umm Zainab asked one of the children to bring her a stack of newspapers. One front-page photo showed Zainab held aloft, lifeless, by a strong, helmeted relief worker who seemed to be shouting in agony. Another photo showed Zainab lying next to two-year-old Zahr’a.

The force of the explosion apparently damaged the internal organs of the little girls, as they slept. Their bodies were not mutilated.

Then Umm Zainab placed in my hands a framed photo of Zainab, a curly headed little girl with huge dark eyes posing seriously for the camera. One could only imagine her smile. “Who are the ‘terrorists’?” Umm Zayneb whispered, slowly reaching over to point at Zainab’s photo. “Is she the ‘terrorist’?”

Umm Zainab and her neighbors endured the sheer terror of being monitored, constantly, by those evidently willing and certainly able to kill their children.

In Beirut, Lebanon, during the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war, Farah Mokhtarazadei, Kathy Kelly, and Michael Birmingham visit a site which was bombed by the Israeli Defense Forces. [Source: Ramzi Kysia]

Khaisor, Pakistan

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Kathy Kelly is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an American peace activist, pacifist and author, one of the founding members of Voices in the Wilderness, and currently a co-coordinator Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Three times since 2000, she has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. As part of peace teamwork in several countries, she has traveled to Iraq twenty-six times, notably remaining in combat zones during the early days of both US-Iraq wars. Her recent travel has focused on Afghanistan and Gaza, along with domestic protests against U.S. drone policy. She has been arrested more than sixty times at home and abroad, and written of her experiences among targets of U.S. military bombardment and inmates of U.S. prisons. She lives in Chicago. Kathy@vcnv.orginfo@vcnv.org

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