Greenwald: Civilian Deaths in US Drone Strikes Not 'Collateral Damage'

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Civilian casualties in the US drone strikes are by no means collateral damage, and the American pilotless aircraft are killing people based on a wild guess, Robert Greenwald, an American documentarist stressed.

Greenwald: Civilian Deaths in US Drone Strikes Not 'Collateral Damage'

Robert Greenwald is a television, feature film and documentary filmmaker. He is the founder and president of Brave New Films (BNF). He has produced or directed more than 65 TV movies, miniseries and films as well as major theatrical releases.

At BNF, Greenwald has produced and directed eight feature-length documentaries, along with many short pieces and campaigns. Greenwald recently released “War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State” (2013) and a documentary about the US government’s drone program, “Unmanned: America's Drone Wars,” which premiered in October 2013.

In an exclusive interview with the Tasnim News Agency, Greenwald elaborated on his latest documentary about the increasing rate of civilian casualties in airstrikes conducted by US drones in Pakistan, saying he wants to let the whole world know about the issue.

Here is his interview with the Tasnim News Agency:

Q: What was the reason behind your decision to work on documentary films instead of fictional movies?

A: I found that doing documentaries can really impact people’s feelings and thinking on the many important issues we have taken on from the wars to economic exploitation and more.

Q: How can documentary films be useful in informing people about their daily issues and life?

A: The key is getting the documentaries to as wide and varied an audience as possible. It is for that reason we try to offer them online, house screenings and at no cost whenever possible.

Q: Given the current atmosphere created by the mainstream media, how could making a documentary about an international issue create a wave in media? Do you believe other artists, filmmakers and media can play a role in creating such a wave?

A: Working on our war films or on the drone film we make sure to reach out to people all over the world, have the films translated into many different languages.

Q: The mainstream media often boycotts your documentaries. Why?

A: The messages of our films be it on wars, economic inequality or Wal-Mart, is not one that the forces of power want to hear. So our job is to use digital media and alternative distribution to reach as wide an intentional audience as possible.

Q: How did the idea of your latest documentary “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars” come to your mind?

A: I was reading about how accurate and effective the drones were. I knew that it was not possible and then my research and trip to Pakistan confirmed my concerns.

Q: Many people think that all Americans support US drone strikes in Pakistan, while you and many other groups are against it. What is the reason behind your opposition?

A: The drones are killing innocent people. The drones are killing people without a judge, jury or trial. The drones are killing people based on a guess of what they are doing. The drones are illegal. The drones are not making us safer.

Q: Why are the Pakistanis so important for you that you produced a documentary to defend them, a documentary which is criticizing your own country’s policies?

A: What is important (is) that we criticize and move public opinion in our country to stop a policy that is wrong morally, ethically and politically. We focus on our country and its policies be it Iraq, or Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Q: As the government does not support your documentary, you have asked people to help you introduce your film. Will people support your call?

A: We are asking people all over the world to help contribute financially to support our work, and to help support our work by spreading the film to as many people as possible all over the world. People can do that by visiting AMERICASDRONEWARS.COM.

Q: The film can be attractive to people around the world. Do you have any plan to translate or screen the movie in other languages? Or you are only addressing American people?

A:  Yes, we are translating the film into many languages beginning with an Urdu version for Pakistan.

Q: Did Pakistanis watch it? If yes, what was their reaction?

A: Yes, it has been and continues to be screened in Pakistan.  And it has been on Pakistan TV stations and the film had a very powerful response there from all the crowds who have seen it.  There has even been great demand for more screenings and actions across the county.

Q: Recently, there was news about killing of leader of the Taliban in a US drone attack. Mainstream media covered it widely. Don’t you think that kind of news would criticize you for making such a documentary against drone strikes? The news may also mean that you are against something that could destroy the Taliban.

A: I do not see covering the killing of a Taliban as critical of me or the documentary. Of course there will be some Taliban killed. That is not the point of the film or the challenge to the policy.

Q: To justify the US drone strikes, Colin Powell has called the death of civilians “collateral murder”. Do you believe that such killings are natural?

A: Deaths by drone strikes are not collateral damage. They are result of targeted killing or guess work. They are not result of innocents in a war. The United States is not at war with Pakistan.

Q: The world has changed. The US, once a superpower, has no longer the absolute cultural, economic, and political power. The US economic and global images are by no means comparable with the past. So we are entering a new world, but mainstream media don’t like to accept this reality. Do you agree with the fact that the world is changing? In your opinion, what is the specification of living in the new world? Is the era of media impact over?

A: Yes, the world is changing. Media impact will be greater, but in many different media, in many different ways.

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