Drones

U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan Mostly Hit Homes and Schools

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Next month will mark 10 years of the United States' ongoing bomb-dropping operation on its ally Pakistan. Just in time for this sordid anniversary, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism last week released a report that indicates the majority of these strikes aimed at terrorists have been executed on schools and homes.

The Bureau explains:

  • Over three-fifths (61%) of all drone strikes in Pakistan targeted domestic buildings, with at least 132 houses destroyed, in more than 380 strikes.
  • At least 222 civilians are estimated to be among the 1,500 or more people killed in attacks on such buildings. In the past 18 months, reports of civilian casualties in attacks on any targets have almost completely vanished, but historically almost one civilian was killed, on average, in attacks on houses.
  • The CIA has consistently attacked houses throughout the 10-year campaign in Pakistan.
  • The time of an attack affects how many people—and how many civilians—are likely to die. Houses are twice as likely to be attacked at night compared with in the afternoon. Strikes that took place in the evening, when families [are] likely to be at home and gathered together, were particularly deadly.

Still, an unnamed government official argued that

the U.S. government only targets terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people. Period. Any suggestion otherwise is flat wrong. Furthermore, before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.

This has long been the dubious stance of the Obama administration, which, according to available data, is still responsible for over 200 civilian casualties. Organizations like the United Nations and journalists like Glenn Greenwald suggest that such estimates are actually artificially low, because the government doesn't actually know who it's killing and in 2012 it broadened the definition of "militant" to include virtually any male who finds himself in the path of a Hellfire missile.

The Bureau paints a picture even more grim, explaining that deaths of women and children in schools and homes are probably far worse than acknowledged, because their "relative seclusion within private space makes them particularly vulnerable to becoming an unknown casualty when a strike occurs."