War on Terror

Obama Administration's 2016 U.S. Kill Count Outside "Hostile Areas" at 432 to 442, Including Just 1 'Non-Combatant'

Official government count of "non-combatant" deaths under Obama is between 66 and 118. Other estimates are north of 400.

|

cliff1066/fllickr

The Obama administration released its first, and last, annual report summarizing U.S. government strikes on "terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities," which the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) defines in the report as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The report was mandated by an executive order President Obama signed just last year. The Obama administration previously brought up the idea of more drone oversight prior to the 2012 election, but didn't really get anywhere.

This year's report listed the number of strikes in 2016 at 53, with 431 to 441 combatants and one non-combatant. The report explains in a footnote that non-combatants are "individuals who may not be made the object of attack under applicable international law." The report does not offer any details on the method of the strikes, in which countries they occurred, nor the identities of any combatants or the lone non-combatant.

"The assessment of non-combatant deaths provided to the DNI reflects consideration of credible reports of non-combatant deaths drawn from all-source information, including reports from the media and non-governmental organizations," the report notes, without offering any details or sourcing. "The assessment of non-combatant deaths can include deaths for which there is an insufficient basis for assessing that the deceased is a combatant."

In the non-combatant footnote, the only footnote in the page and a half document, the DNI defines a "non-combatant" by what they were not. "The term 'non-combatant' does not include an individual who is part of a belligerent party to an armed conflict, an individual who is taking a direct part in hostilities, or an individual who is targetable in the exercise of U.S. national self-defense." The DNI also insisted that "it is not the case that all military-aged males in the vicinity of a target are deemed to be combatants."

In 2012, The New York Times reported about the redefinition of the term "civilian" during the Obama administration which had, in effect, according to administration officials, meant all military-aged males in a strike zone.

This week's report follows one last summer that offered similarly suspicious numbers. That one reported that from the beginning of the Obama administration through the end of 2015, U.S. strikes killed between 2,372 and 2,581 combatants and between 64 and 116 civilians, "a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings," The Intercept reported. For 2016, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which provides extensive coverage of the U.S. drone war, identified 49 strikes outside of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, which killed at least 4 to 6 civilians, and 362 to 507 other people killed in strikes

The Bureau estimates that between the start of the Obama presidency and the end of 2016, between 384 and 807 civilian deaths in U.S. strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. The Obama administration's final estimate falls at between 65 and 117 civilians.

USA Today was unable to get comment from the Obama White House, noting that "Most of the White House press office had left the administration by Thursday," and also reporting about concerns Donald Trump may revoke the executive order that requires even this meager report on U.S. strikes around the world. The final number for the Obama administration is likely to be larger—the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported covert U.S. activities in Yemen earlier this month.

NEXT: The Donald Trump of Texas

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. Bullfuckingshit, that number’s window dressing and nothing more.

  2. The sole non-combatant was still a terrorist, but the other terrorists had labeled him 4-F.

    1. Allah dammit, Abu Hajaar! You’re such a fuck-up!

  3. Is it strange to anyone else that Obama touts his drone-kill-count Vietnam style, in more ways than one? Isn’t that the sort of thing the media should pick up on?

    1. It’s cute when he does it.

  4. “The Obama administration released its firt, and last,”

    I think he meant first and lat.

    1. First and lats. He’s been working out.

  5. Thanks for not droning me today… ?

  6. The Obama administration released its first, and last, annual report summarizing U.S. government strikes on “terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities,” which the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) defines in the report as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

    So, anybody got a tally of the total number of *countries* missing from the list?

  7. The Obama administration’s final estimate falls at between 65 and 117 civilians.

    Which NPR reported uncritically this morning.

    1. Obedient dogs bark on command.

      1. Yeah, there reporting on the conclusion of his administration is hilarious.

        [sic]Terrorist attacks were up, which is not his fault, but more Americans are insured than ever before, childhood obesity has leveled off, we’re drinking less soda, and fewer people are smoking.

        It almost sounds like Michelle was more effective than he was.

  8. How many declarations of war during that period?

    1. Obama’s ready to point out all the unlawful warmaking in the new administration!

      1. You know, I was wondering what would take the place of the media in the coming years. Now I know.

  9. In other news, Cuban healthcare leads in all metrics, according to Cuban government.

  10. The Obama administration previously brought up the idea of more drone oversight prior to the 2012 election, but didn’t really get anywhere.

    Yeah, I remember that project being a thing for about two weeks and then the new poll numbers came out showing Romney wasn’t likely to win after all and the whole idea of needing rules and transparency on the President’s ability to order a hit on anybody he pleased got back-burnered right off the stove and into the trash can.

    1. But I’m sure the Constitutionally enshrined Fourth Estate followed up on that…

      in an alternate universe.

  11. Bad luck for that one guy, huh?

    1. He’s the one that Stalin was talking about.

    2. He’s the one that Stalin was talking about.

    3. Yeah, I’m not buying either their total body count or their number of innocent victims.

      1. If past uses of the term are any indication, combatants include people associated with the target even if that association is only familial or social.

    4. He was only two weeks away from retirement, too.

  12. “The term ‘non-combatant’ does not include an individual who is part of a belligerent party to an armed conflict, an individual who is taking a direct part in hostilities, or an individual who is targetable in the exercise of U.S. national self-defense.”

    See, if Obama had been smart enough to adopt the Bush policy of “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” there would be zero non-combatant deaths. Heck, Hillary said the same thing and you gotta know she’s an evil genius who knows how to get away with murder.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.