February 21, 2015

Goodbye Blue Sky and Good Riddance

By In Blogs, Brian Jacobson

I was reminded the other day of one of my favorite songs from Pink Floyd, probably one of the lesser known songs from their album “The Wall”. You have to hear the original version from the album to get the full affect. It starts out with birds chirping and slowly the sound of an airplane humming in the background before the voice of young boy saying “Look mummy, there’s an airplane up in the sky.”

“Did you see the frightened ones
Did you hear the falling bombs
Did you ever wonder
Why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath a clear blue sky

Did you see the frightened ones
Did you hear the falling bombs
The flames are all long gone
But the pain lingers on
Goodbye blue sky
Goodbye blue sky
Goodbye
Goodbye”[1]

Growing up in Minnesota I endured some long winters. It wasn’t the cold though that would bother me; it was the cloudy dreariness that would drag on for days. The sky was just a seamless wall of indistinguishable clouds from one end to the other. It was like looking at a blur that had nothing to see at the other end of it. Everything became gray. Even your car would turn gray from the salt. The days were so short and the sky was so dark that sometimes it didn’t even feel like the sun even rose that day. But when it was sunny it could be -20 and you would feel warm. The snow shined brighter or it melted away and you felt like spring was around the corner. I can’t imagine wishing for it to be cloudy, to despise and fear the sunshine would be like wanting to live under the White Witch in Narnia instead of Aslan.
I was reminded of this song by two different testimonies before the senate from actual individuals living under U.S. drones. The first was a year ago by Rafiq ur-Rehman. Most chilling though was the testimony of his son Zubair and daughter Nabeela.[2] Zubair, Rafiq’s 13 year old son, recounts the story of how we was walking home from school when suddenly the drones they had always heard humming above fired upon his home killing his grandmother and injury his siblings. The most dignified way to say it is that she was simply gone. No burial or proper funeral as the family saw fit for their grandmother but as in Zubair’s own words “It was like she was exploded to pieces.” The flames are all long gone but the pain lingers on.

Look Mummy there’s a Drone up in the Sky

The family testified to how common the sights, sounds, and strikes of drowns have become in Northwestern Pakistan. “As I helped my grandma in the field, I could see and hear drone overhead but wasn’t worried because we’re not militants,” Zubair said. “I no longer like blue skies. In fact, I prefer gray skies. When sky brightens, drones return and we live in fear…We used to love to play outside. But now people are afraid to leave their houses so we don’t play very often.”

Did you see the frightened ones…
Did you hear the falling bombs…
Did you ever wonder
Why we had to run for shelter
When the promise of a brave new world
Unfurled beneath a clear blue sky

Why, you might ask, were they targeted then? Well quite simply earlier in the day they were unfortunate enough to have a Taliban fighter use a phone down the road from their house.[3]

The second testimony was that of Farea al-Muslimi[4], a 22 year old from Yemen who had been a foreign exchange student in America. From his testimony you can clearly see he loves America, deeply appreciated his time here, and works hard present the America he knows to ordinary Yemenis. Drone strikes in Yemen have made it difficult, one strike that killed 40 civilians.[5] The Hellfire missile that was reined on his small village of Wessab has now made it impossible. Drone strikes have become the face of America to Yeminis. The man who was the target was known to the village, though not as extremist, and as Farea testifies he could easily been captured by the village or the Yemen government, but no one asked.

Mohammed Tuaiman, a 13 year old from Yemen, lived in fear of drones ever since his father and brother were killed in drone strikes.[6] He called them “the death machines in the sky”. He told The Guardian of the sleepless and nightmares it caused kids in the area. He saw bodies burned like charcoal.[7] Tuaiman doesn’t dream of them anymore though. He’s dead. He was killed in a drone strike three weeks ago. Tuaiman was diagnosed by the CIA to suffer from Military-aged Middle-eastern Male (MMM). Considering his father, and brother accidentally, were killed by drone strikes the thirteen year old apparently had a high risk of becoming radicalized…at thirteen. Because you don’t have to commit a crime to be executed by the State, you just have to have the possibility of committing one in the future.
This is droning, and it is one of the best recruiting tools for terrorists.  This is the face of America to these people. These are things that make them hate us and breed radicals not scantily clad blondes, French fries, and bud light.[8]
[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58_S5e0AVU0

[2] http://rt.com/usa/rehman-drone-grayson-hearing-924/

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/29/pakistani-drone-victim-congress_n_4171975.html

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIb0wMfOFhw

[5] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/this-yemeni-man-loves-america-hates-al-qaeda-and-says-drone-strikes-make-them-stronger/275248/

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/10/drones-dream-yemeni-teenager-mohammed-tuaiman-death-cia-strike?CMP=fb_gu

[7] This should be our standard response to those who bring up the Jordanian pilot who was burned to death by ISIS as argument for more military engagement. Is burning innocent civilians in cluster bombs, napalm, and hell-fire missiles any better?

[8] If you are interested in more information about drones there two documentaries on youtube/Netflix “Unmanned: America’s Drone War” and “Dirty War”.

Written by Brian Jacobson

Brian Jacobson works as a quality technician for a manufacturing company in St. Louis, Mo where he lives with his new bride. He studied biblical and theological studies at Reformation Bible College under R.C. Sproul in Orlando, FL. He’s an Old-School Presbyterian who enjoys the simple means of grace, Machen, and living the high life on a budget. Follow him @briankjacobson on Twitter.