Who We've Slaughtered with Drones Is Your Holiday Weekend News Dump

Happy Independence Day!


Predator drone
A1c Aaron Montoya/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Today President Barack Obama's administration is publicly releasing some information about the collateral damage caused by using armed drones to try to strike down terrorists in foreign countries. Whether anybody believe the figures being provided is another matter entirely.

Today the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released numbers for what it claims are combatant and non-combatant deaths for drone strikes in countries outside of formal war zones. This means countries like Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, but specifically not Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

death count

The federal government says that out of 473 drone strikes in these countries, they've killed between 2,372 and 2,581 actual combatants and between 64 and 116 non-combatants. This formal recognition of the number of non-combatants killed is far below what independent observers to be an accurate accounting. The New York Times notes:

In a seeming acknowledgment that the long-anticipated disclosure would be greeted with skepticism by drone critics, the administration released the numbers on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. The use of a range of estimated civilian deaths underscored the fact that the government often does not know for sure the affiliations of those killed.

"They're guessing, too," said Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who has tracked civilian deaths for more than a decade. "Theirs may be a little more educated than my guesses. But they cannot be completely accurate."

Outsiders (depending on the group) estimate between 200 and 1,000 non-combatants have been killed by drone strikes outside of war zones.

The ODNI report predicts this criticism and says it believes its numbers are more accurate because it has better information: "The U.S. Government draws on all available information (including sensitive intelligence) to determine whether an individual is part of a belligerent party fighting against the United States in an armed conflict; taking a direct part in hostilities against the United States; or otherwise targetable in the exercise of national self-defense. Thus, the U.S. Government may have reliable information that certain individuals are combatants, but are being counted as non-combatants by nongovernmental organizations."

Critics of America's use of drones, though, say the government actually operates almost the opposite of what it just described. In The Assassination Complex, by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept, sources tell them that the government frequently assumes that those it kills are enemy combatants unless it gathers evidence that says otherwise.

Regardless of how trustworthy the numbers are, it's still a formal acknowledgment that the American government is killing innocent people in countries in which we do not have an active war. The larger question, though, is whether the American public actually cares. A Pew poll from 2015 shows that a majority of Americans—58 percent—support using drone strikes to target extremists. Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike all support using them in majority numbers, though in lower numbers among the Democrats and independents.

Read the ODNI report here.

NEXT: Hollywood Insiders Meet to Talk About Gun Violence Prevention, Influence of NRA

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Another reason to vote Trump might be to get people to care about this again.

    1. My best friend’s ex-wife makes $95/hr on the laptop. She has been unemployed for six months but last month her income with big fat bonus was over $14000 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Just try it out on the following website…
      Go here________________ http://www.Earnmore9.com

    2. Proggies only care about war when it is a rethuglican bombing. I bring that up with my proggie friends every chance I get……

  2. Yikes, the Pew poll actually asked about “extremists.” What is an “extremist”? I guess it’s one of those cool weasel words you can interpret however suits you.

    1. Trump supporters and climate change skeptics heretics.

    1. It’s the closest government ever gets to admitting “We are completely full of shit.”

  3. I have a friend who is a huge Obama supporter but hates Trump with a thousand suns and thinks that the end of the world as we know will arrive if he wins in November. Anyway, I asked her why is she so worried about a guy who haven’t won the Presidency yet but stay silent and apathetic towards the current White House occupant who actually violates our civil liberties?

    It kills me to see self proclaim lovers of civil liberties stay silent simply because the person has a D next to their name.

    1. Trump will burn the constitution and drag people from their homes! Ban guns!

      1. What constitution?

        1. Yes

    2. Tribalism. You don’t get to pick and choose anymore about what you like or dislike about a candidate. Its Team Red or Team Blue. If you are pro-choice-you must also support wealth redistribution, throwing climate change deniers in prison, and stay silent if your president kills innocents with drones. If you want lower taxes and less government-you must also love Jee-zus and hate homos.

  4. 2,372 and 2,581 actual combatants and between 64 and 116 non-combatants. Are they serious with those numbers? Like they aren’t joking. That ratio is absurd.

    1. And from only 473 strikes? that works out to 5.15 to 5.70 people killed per strike.

      That seems awfully high to me.

      1. Meh, depending on the ordinance and target type, they could kill tens of people in one strike.

      2. How many people were at your wedding?

        1. So the moral here is to be a little pickier about who you invite to your wedding?

      3. One vehicle is 6 if its full. 1 transport is 20 in round terms. Hit one jihadi camp with multiple ordance,and kill 100 and its,only counted as one strike.

      4. A couple of wedding parties or hospitals will get your kill ratio up to snuff.

    2. So, a 0.049% ratio.

      1. 2.5-6.7% of kills are ‘civilians’. Does anyone believe this for even a minute?

        1. Every progressive out there. If it was Bush then the numbers are lies.

  5. I remember an ISIS video that’s probably over a year old now where they were calling out the USA and I couldn’t help but think “someone’s begging to get murderdroned.”

    1. I’m personally happy to oblige them.

  6. The problem is we do a lot of profiling, which leads the combatant numbers to be higher than it probably should be. Having a gun in tribal Pakistan or most of Afghanistan doesn’t make you a terrorist looking to come to America and kill Americans. Yemen has so many guns that not having one should be regarded as notable, and again not an immediate indicator of terrorist.

    But freedom and liberty and stuff.

    1. The NRA’s influence extends to yemen?

  7. “Overall, 48% say they are very concerned that U.S. drone strikes endanger the lives of innocent civilians, while another 32% say they are somewhat concerned about this.”
    80% are concerned about civilian deaths but 58% support drone strikes against “extremists”. Obama approval at 51%. The sad fact is only a tiny percentage of the US population is even aware of this issue. The polls are meaningless, the numbers of dead above are of no interest to the electorate. Clintrump will continue or expand the strikes and no one will notice.

    1. So? Throwing grenades into baby cribs and shooting unarmed innocent civilian teenagers in the back is standard practice here in Bush-bama ‘Murrica, by dad! Why should foreigners be treated any better?

      1. Piss off.

  8. RE: Who We’ve Slaughtered with Drones Is Your Holiday Weekend News Dump
    Happy Independence Day!

    It is with great pride that we should kill others without the annoying due process of the US Constitution.
    What other country can brag the kill rate that matches our drone strikes?
    All of these strikes go hand-in-hand with our wise foreign policy of interventionism.
    We should all be so proud of leaders and their magnificent political decisions this Independence Day.
    They have showed the world what Amerika is really all about.

    1. Reminds me of a science fiction movie where aliens with flying machines invade These States and kill our people. In the real world, it’s the other way around.

    2. I just wonder how many deaths of innocents the other side with their suicide bombers are responsible for. Would someone like to total up the numbers on those?

  9. Just because you call someone a combatant doesn’t mean they are. Asking a cop for the reason he stopped you is enough to make them label you as such.

    I’d be interested in knowing how many of these deaths were American citizens outside of a combat zone.
    Yes, it’s a rhetorical question, because it’s already happened. But where does it stop? Will it be safe for an outspoken political enemy to travel US 97 through Nevada?

    1. Helen Mirren, the Coronel in the drones-kills movie… didn’t she play swinger-storywriter Ayn Rand back when commies and ku-klux alike were laughing at the idea of libertarians getting enough votes to change the laws?

      1. She played Rand in The Passion of Ayn Rand, but it wasn’t all that long ago – 1999.

  10. I’m going to guess that “otherwise targetable ” covers quite a bit of ground here.

  11. “In a seeming acknowledgment that the long-anticipated disclosure would be greeted with skepticism by drone critics, the administration released the numbers on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend.”

    It’s a good thing we have the most transparent administration ever! If it weren’t, it would try to hide this sort of info by timing its release instead of putting it out there when everyone is looking.

  12. We went through some of this before there was a Libertarian Party to end the draft. Back then a few people asked: “What’s wrong with not killing any strangers on the other side of the world?”
    The Dems and Nixon Republicans thought that was a really weird idea–an idea you couldn’t even vote for.
    But this is now…

  13. countries outside of formal war zones.

    Isn’t that the ENTIRE WORLD since Congress has not declared war recently? I wonder how these stats would look if we included all of those ‘formal war zones’.

  14. I’ve made $76,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student.I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money.It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it.

    Open This LinkFor More InFormation..

    ??????? http://www.selfcash10.com

  15. Government math:

    That bride and groom in Yemen were probably gonna have 8 kids to grow up and be terrorists. That’s 8 terrorists and 2 innocents.

    Next case…

  16. Classic Obama tactic. Release a few numbers which cannot be verified and then proclaim transparency! We need an Edward Snowden type to pry out the actual data.

  17. As long as we’re killing muslims, I’m fine with it.

  18. my best friend’s mom makes $74 an hour on the computer . She has been without work for five months but last month her payment was $19746 just working on the computer for a few hours. find more information …
    ?????????? http://www.factoryofincome.com

  19. before I saw the bank draft which had said $9426 , I didnt believe that…my… brother woz like actualy earning money part-time at there labtop. . there uncles cousin has done this 4 less than fifteen months and by now repaid the dept on there place and got a great new Mini Cooper . read the full info here …

    Clik This Link inYour Browser??

    ? ? ? ? http://www.SelfCash10.com

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.