Drones

New Drone Study Casts Doubt on Obama Narrative of Terror-Fighting Strikes With Minimal Civilian Casualties

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Law professors at Stanford and New York Universities have just released the results of their nine-month study of drone strikes in Pakistan, mainly in North Waziristan, and its conclusions do not bode well for the truth of the Obama administration. 

Principled lefties and publications — remember those? — including Glenn Greenwald, Gawker's Hamilton Nolan, and HuffPost dug into the 150-page study, which involved 130 interviews with Pakistani civilians, half of whom were either survivors of strikes or family members of individuals killed. What they found was that there is a serious psychological toll that comes with the knowledge that drones are permanently patrolling overhead, and if they decide to strike, there's not a damn thing you can do about it. This should be no surprise to an actual humans. The paper's title is "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civillians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan" so the authors are not hiding their conclusions, which include a plea for transparency, and actually citing the legal justifications for these strikes, particularly when it comes to "signature strikes". 

Greenwald highlights the report's descriptions of the stress caused by repeat drone strikes on the same areas, including secondary strikes on both rescue crews and funeral processions. He also notes that the report says that less than 2 percent of the targets killed by strikes were "high value." And, says the report, "furthermore, evidence suggest that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent, non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks." And really, why wouldn't that be true? Rudy Giuliani and Jay Carney types notwithstanding, even people who work for the Pentagon and CIA often stumble upon the basic truth that populations get angry if you target them with drones (or missiles, or all-out boots on the ground wars, or any kind of intrusive, foreign intervention). 

The authors of the report suggest that the number of those killed in Pakistan is much higher than the Obama administration admits, which should come as no surprise considering the various lawsuits that have been filed in attempt to get the Department of Justice to simply admit that the program is real. The LA Times, in their summary of report says "474 to 884 civilian deaths since 2004, including 176 children" is a credible number, which comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The report also skewers the New America Foundation's kill numbers, which CNN repeated earlier this summer, and which do not seem to hold up to scrutiny. It's pretty easy to see, for anyone with a skeptical brain, that if you cannot trust the administration to reveal the existence, the extent, or the names of targets their overseas kill campaign, maybe you cannot trust the way they classify the dead.  

But really, why ever stop when every male killed by a drone strike is a militant? That sounds awfully effective when you put it that way.