Originally posted at TomDispatch.
For more than 20 years, the civilian casualties of the Global War on Terror have, at best, been nameless, faceless victims to most Americans. They’ve been “30 pine nut farm workers” killed in a 2019 drone strike in Afghanistan or “a woman and child” slain in a similar attack a year earlier in Somalia. Rarely do we ever learn their names or anything about their lives.
Four years ago, Adel Al Manthari, a civil servant with the Yemeni government, was driving near the village of Al Uqla when a U.S. missile ripped through his SUV’s roof. Three fellow occupants were killed instantly. Another died days later at a hospital. Al Manthari suffered severe burns to the left side of his body, a fractured hip, and catastrophic damage to his left hand. Those injuries left him unable to walk or work, in debt, and forced his daughters, aged 8 and 14 at the time of the strike, to drop out of school. While two independentinvestigations found that the men in the car were civilians, the Pentagon still maintains they were Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “terrorists.”
Al Manthari and his family struggled along until, earlier this year, his injuries flared up and doctors warned him that he was at imminent risk of developing gangrene, losing his legs, and maybe even his life. He desperately needed surgery he couldn’t afford from hospitals that demand payment up front. While Congress set aside $3 million to provide compensation to victims like him, the Pentagon refused to even acknowledge pleas made on his behalf. It took a GoFundMe campaign to provide Al Manthari with the surgery he needed to, hopefully, save his legs. Even if that procedure proves successful, he has an expensive road — including post-surgical treatment and long-term care — ahead.
Those like him wounded by drone strikes, the witnesses to such attacks, and the family members of the victims are bound together by loss and pain, an international, cross-border brother-and-sisterhood forged by American war and cruelty. Today, TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, co-founder of Brown University’s Costs of War Project, shines a light on the civilian suffering so many of us have long ignored and asks that we don’t look away.
Adel Al Manthari has already spent four years living with severe trauma. It will be with him for the rest of his days. For Americans like me who paid the taxes that bought the drone and missile that wounded him and provided the salary for the pilot who fired it, the very least we can do is bear witness to his lasting injuries and confront the suffering we caused him and, as Mazzarino makes clear, so many others.
Copyright 2022 Nick Turse
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands(the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.