Peregrine flight

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Death from the skies

"The Obama administration has also indicated that it considers any "military-aged males" who are killed in the vicinity of a drone-strike target to be likely militants, until proven otherwise."1

Two studies, remarkably different conclusions. In July, the New America Foundation was trumpeting that the use of drones had cut civilian deaths in Pakistan to near zero.

Here's an excerpt from an article by Obama crony Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst and Jennifer Rowland, Specialist to CNN:
The New America Foundation has been collecting data about the drone attacks systematically for the past three years from reputable news sources such as the New York Times and Reuters, as well as Pakistani media outlets such as the Express Tribune and Dawn.
According to the data generated by averaging the high and low casualty estimates of militant and civilian deaths published in a wide range of those outlets, the estimated civilian death rate in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has declined dramatically since 2008, when it was at its peak of almost 50%.
Today, for the first time, the estimated civilian death rate is at or close to zero.
Over the life of the drone program in Pakistan, which began with a relatively small number of strikes between 2004 and 2007, the estimated civilian death rate is 16%.
And in the Obama administration, between 1,507 and 2,438 people have been killed in drone strikes. Of those, 148 to 309, or between 10% and 12%, were civilians, according to the New America Foundation data.
The drop in the number of civilian casualties since 2008 came as a result of several developments, one of which was a directive issued from the White House just days after President Obama took office, to tighten up the way the CIA selected targets and carried out strikes. Specifically, Obama wanted to evaluate and sign off personally on any strike if the agency did not have a "near certainty" that it would result in zero civilian casualties.
A new study cautions us that we may want to reevaluate the New America data. Researchers at Stanford and NYU Law Schools have not only pointed out many gross inaccuracies in the Bergen puff piece but some very misleading statements by administration officials. It is titled Living Under Drones, death, injury and trauma to civilians from US drone practices in Pakistan.
...while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US
government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have
injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.” It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid- September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals.
The authors interviewed over 130 victims and witnesses of drone activity, as well as their family members, government officials, medical professionals, development and humanitarian workers, members of civil society, academics, and journalists. Witnesses "provided first-hand accounts of drone strikes, and provided testimony about a range of issues, including the missile strikes themselves, the strike sites, the victims' bodies, or a family member or members killed or injured in the strike".

I haven't had a chance to read the entire report but I intend to. What I have read is truly chilling, where young children killed in schools and orphanages are tallied as militants. Those drones, ever present in Pakistani skies, are obviously not quite as surgical and hygienic in their precision as we were once told they were.

1.HuffPo Pakistan Drone Study Finds 'Damaging And Counterproductive' Consequences From U.S. Policy

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

U.S. War crimes in Pakistan. Let us count the ways in which the civilian officials and military personnel are guilty of the above, beginning with the fact that there has been no Declaration of War by Congress: that it is impossible to separate so-called "militants" (who is a "militant" by the way? Is it someone who dislikes the U.S. intensely or something more and who decides?) from civilians and that any "person" who is murdered by drone is deprived of their Fifth Amendment Rights under the U.S. Constitution. Better face the fact that we now have a (classically defined) fascist federal govt. and act accordingly. BLR - R