Lying About Civilian Casualties in Drone War

John Glaser, July 19, 2011

Apparently John Brennan, President Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor, told the public last month that zero (that’s right, zero) civilian casualties have occurred as a result of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. For anyone reading Antiwar.com on anything close to a regular basis, this is one of the most shameful and blatant lies the Obama White House has uttered.

There are some updated estimations on civilian deaths from drones in Pakistan, thankfully…

ACLU blog:

Zero civilian casualties — during a period when there were more than 100 CIA drone strikes — sounded almost too good to be true. As it turns out, it was. According to a new report from the UK’s award-winningBureau of Investigative Journalism, released last night, at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 strikes since August 2010. Among these, the Bureau reports that it has identified, by name, six children killed in drone strikes. More civilians are likely to have been killed in an additional 15 strikes for which precise information is not available.

There is also Noor Behram – who has been on the ground in Pakistan counting the dead himself – and his estimations of innocents killed:

“For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant,” he said. “I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed.”

[...] Noor Behram has managed to reach 60 [drone strike sites], in both North and South Waziristan, in which he estimates more than 600 people were killed.

I can find neither the reports of on-the-ground estimates nor of the fact that Obama is absurdly lying about this issue on any of the headlines in the mainstream American media.




13 Responses to “Lying About Civilian Casualties in Drone War”

  1. Shhhhhh…. We're not supposed to hear about this !

  2. John Brennan is not lying. I mean, considering that 'team Obama' holds most of human existence on our Planet Earth as inconsequential, well, that explains it. Pakistanis quite like Palestinians, are under-the-radar humans and ergo, bug splat.

  3. Uncle Sam is applying 'if a tree falls in a forest, & no one is about, does it make a noise'(? ) towards people.

    Compare the public 'noize' over the Anthony trial results to MSN silence about the deaths delivered by The Empire.

    Nancy Grace has no cute pictures of now-dead foreign children. American self-delusion is strengthened.

  4. "[...] Noor Behram has managed to reach 60 [drone strike sites], in both North and South Waziristan, in which he estimates more than 600 people were killed."

    It is the deliberate vagueness of statements like this (after all, Taliban are people – are they counted?) that makes me distrust the thrust of this article. I nether believe that zero were killed, nor that the US is killing 1 militant for every 10 non-militants. The drone operators have hours to assess the target, and the missiles go exactly where they are fired. Why on earth would the US fire without having a high degree of confidence that they are killing groups of militants?

    Also, I'm curious about how Noor Behram determines who is innocent? Certainly civilian dress is no indication, since the Taliban do not wear uniforms. And if the bodies are blown to bits, how does he know if it is a woman, a child, or an adult male? And if it is an adult male, is he innocent if he does not still have his AK-47 in his hand?

    All in all, this testimony is too vague to be trusted. The US has an overwhelming incentive to avoid killing non-combatants, and it appears that they have the technology to make good assessments (like watching armed men congregate in a compound or house). Certainly non-combatants are killed ,but I don't believe it is a majority of victims.

  5. Victor,

    It has been the news media that has been vague regarding civilian deaths. Much of the time unnamed sources are used which is highly suspect and they certainly have not gone out and investigated the veracity of the deaths. And if you read any of the articles on this topic that are easily found on the internet you would know that there is no such thing as pinpoint accuracy when it comes to using explosive bombs. The intelligence used to pick targets is also highly suspect for various reasons. It is hard to believe that anyone could think that there are no civilian murders during wars. Civilians always suffer the most deaths in war. Why would you ever think this was different?

  6. At least two detailed studies by respected institutions have found 90 to 95% failure rate for US drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to faulty US intelligence. By failure I mean 90 to 95% of the time they are killing civilians.

  7. [...] however — from the ACLU blog (h/t antiwar.com): Zero civilian casualties — during a period when there were more than 100 CIA drone strikes [...]

  8. American politics is based on lies and the administration is worst lier in the world.
    All lies does,t help as Pakistanis knows that americans are liers. There will be no change till these bloody
    politicians have created mass hatred for americans time to come and now.
    Americans are guilty of supporting the politicians. At present mostly criminals are advisers to Obama.

  9. One of the best pieces I've read on the subject of drone casualties in Pakistan and the US lies was published by DerSpiegel:

    "Photos from the Ground Show Civilian Casualties"

    In the US, remote-controlled drones are considered great tools in the war on terror. For years Washington has sent these high-tech weapons into western Pakistan, lauding their precision. But a local journalist says he has photographic evidence that civilians are often the victims.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,…

    "Most of the people are killed by American drones," he [Noor Behram, Pakistani photographer & subject of the article] said. "But reports on these incidents also say that a certain number of militants have been killed."

  10. The drone operators have hours to assess the target, and the missiles go exactly where they are fired. Why on earth would the US fire without having a high degree of confidence that they are killing groups of militants?

    Based on that statement alone, I'm willing to lay money on the table that you, "Sir", are one of at least 100 military personas being manipulated by the same US soldier and trolling the internet for the Pentagon war machine.

  11. Drone Warfare: Unlawful and Ineffective?

    This is the final part of a multi-part series on drone warfare . Today’s post focuses on the drawbacks of drone warfare in the form of two questions: Is drone warfare lawful, and is it effective in combating terrorism?

    A distinction must be made between drone operations under military control and those under CIA control. The military drone program operates as an extension of conventional military operations, attacking lawful combatants in acknowledged wars. The concept of legality inherently depends on which legal code is followed. Under United States law, all drone attacks undertaken by the CIA are approved by the CIA’s lawyers, making the strikes legal under US law. Because this legality will not be challenged in an American court of law, this question is of theoretical rather than practical importance: Can CIA-operated drone strikes be considered legal and moral under accepted international law?

    Continue reading here:
    http://policyoutlook.blogspot.com/2011/08/drone-w

  12. [...] I blogged about at the time, just prior to the study’s publication, high level Obama administration officials actually [...]

  13. If you talk to a man on the ground that used to have a wife and 5 children, and now has no immediate family left, that is how you figure the casualties. Six civilians. Are we at war with Pakistan? By what right do we breach their borders and kill even one unintended victim?

    Your lack of concern over this only reinforces the author's thesis. It is now the norm to send flying robots into a foreign land to kill evildoers, and oooops collateral damage. Nice helmet war monger.