The AP released a fascinating report this morning about Washington's fight with the Pakistani government over the use of CIA drone strikes. The story describes the lengths to which CIA Director David Petraeus has gone to maintain Pakistan's blessing in the use of drone strikes, Pakistan's unwillingness to continue blessing said drone strikes, and the Obama administration's incredible snow job on the entire affair, which amounts to, "Everything is fine, predator drones are great, terrorists are bad."
The real treat, however, is the AP's description of the 8-year drone program. According to the wire service, it's been nothing but a smashing success:
The diplomatic furor threatens to halt the CIA's drone program, which in the last eight years, has killed an estimated 2,223 Taliban, al-Qaida and other suspected militants with 289 strikes, peaking at 117 strikes throughout 2010, reducing al-Qaida's manpower, firepower and reach, according to Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal website, which tracks the strikes. U.S. officials say his figures are fairly accurate, though they would not give more precise figures.
If U.S. officials aren't objecting to a reported death tally, you're doing something wrong. In this case, we know the AP is committing a sin of omission by not including Sadaullah, a 15-year-old Pakistani who lost both legs, one eye, his wheelchair-bound uncle and two cousins during an errant drone strike; or 16-year-old anti-drone activist Tariq Aziz and his 12-year-old cousin, both of whom were killed by a CIA drone while driving to retrieve their dear old aunty.
The Long War Journal's numbers are also contradicted by the UK's Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimates that
civilian casualties occur in approximately one fifth of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. Since the drone war began in Pakistan in 2004, more than 2,300 people have been killed and at least 1,150 wounded in these strikes. The Bureau estimates that the dead could include as many as 780 civilians, including as many as 175 children.
The New America Foundation, meanwhile, put the number of civilian casualties from drone strikes at 32 percent.
There's a lot of daylight between those three estimates; enough that the AP should know better than to regurgitate the claim that every person killed by a CIA drone strike in the last eight years was a terrorist.