There’s No Such Thing as Civilians in the Drone War

John Glaser, May 29, 2012

Via Glenn Greenwald, this New York Times report on the Obama administration’s drone wars:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

…The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

Even when it is admitted that civilians are killed in drone strikes, it is inevitably described as legitimate “collateral damage.” There is a systematic refusal to call it what it really is, although former general counsel at the CIA John A. Rizzo, now under investigation in Obama’s war on whistleblowers, has referred to these killings as “murder.”




35 Responses to “There’s No Such Thing as Civilians in the Drone War”

  1. So, innocent until proven guilty?

    BTW, why the hell are we occupying other peoples countries again? For freedom? What Freedom?

  2. [...] Even when it is admitted that civilians are killed in drone strikes, it is inevitably described as legitimate “collateral damage.” There is a systematic refusal to call it what it really is, although former general counsel at the CIA John A. Rizzo, now under investigation in Obama’s war on whistleblowers, has referred to these killings as “murder.” http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2012/05/29/theres-no-such-thing-as-civilians-in-the-drone-war/ [...]

  3. Deep_Thinker, what do you mean "we"? I'm not killing people in Afghanistan, etc, nor supporting people who do. Are you? Language is important.

    I love Rothbard's commentary on this issue in the first page of his famous essay "The Anatomy of the State": http://mises.org/pdf/anatomy.pdf

  4. This Memorial weekend
    extraordinary how the press can point the finger at Syria for civilian atrocities and demand another civil war. U.S. drone strikes that kill civilians at a Pakistan bakery simply don't exist in the western corporate press and there is zero reporting of any U.S. drone strikes. In the last two weeks at least twenty two US soldiers have died in Afghanistan. None of these deaths were reported in the Western press outside their hometown area.
    US Afghan combat deaths are reported, occasionally, as "NATO" soldiers. But there is never a follow up report that the "NATO" soldiers were all from the US and died in another horrible IED attack in Helmand or Kandahar province. The Afghan war is almost totally hidden from public view by the corporate press.

  5. Sorry, I mean the US. I mean what other country is occupying umteen nations right now?

  6. I live in the geographic US, but again: I'm not occupying other peoples' homes nor supporting the individuals who do.

    My intent was just to draw attention to the fact that individuals are responsible for their actions and collectivist language (e.g. "we", "us," "our government," "the US", etc) can obscure that fact.

    I think it's better to make it clear to the people who do support the wars and foreign interventionism that they are the ones who are responsible, not the other people in their communities.

  7. combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

  8. When you say, "I live in the geographic US, but again: I'm not occupying other peoples' homes nor supporting the individuals who do.", consider all of the things you buy which are taxed in the U.S. I have no way of knowing whether your efforts add up to supporting war or ending it; however, I have known anarchist who don't support the war (in their opinion) but do pay plenty in U.S. taxes….which in my opinion means that the "anarchist in question" is not really a practicing anarchist as much as they are a theoretical anarchist.

    I do appreciate the point that the "we" that conducts and actively supports war does not include every U.S. citizen and I feel confident that you don't intend to support the war either.

    It isn't just the tax to consider either. Buying anything from anyone that supports the war very well may end up being support for the war.

  9. The question of who is responsible and to what extent for the atrocities committing in the wars is important and not easy to answer.

    I would argue that the people on the front line who actually commit the acts of force have the most responsibility. These aggressors' superiors who don't actually do any fighting, but who order others to go fight or launch drone strikes certainly are responsible as well. In a general sense, anyone who speaks out in support of the acts of aggression is responsible in a sense as well.

    I think the best thing to do is to not use force aggressively yourself and speak out against those who do use force aggressively. Even then though, you may still be contributing to the crimes committed in the wars. This is because you may still be paying for the wars. Of course voluntarily paying for them and paying for them under duress are significantly different things from a moral perspective.

    Having said that, even if you are paying taxes to support a war under the threat of violence, it still remains that your money may be helping to support the war even though you are giving it up involuntarily. Note that I said "may" in the previous sentence. Isn't it true that regardless of whether or not I pay income taxes or regardless or not I refrain from shopping at a store that requires I pay a sales tax (VAT), the US Government will still pass a spending bill on the war in Congress just as large? The government can make their own money–they don't rely on collecting my money as much as I may initially assume. Of course if everyone refused to pay taxes then the state would starve, but my point is that I think that advocating against the war with words to others is more important than making sure that you don't eat a restaurant with a sales tax, etc.

    Sorry for the rant. To summarize, I don't think that you have to go to the extremes to avoid giving the government any of your money in order to be a "practical anarchist." I would have to quit my job to do that because my employer gives the government a certain percentage of the money that they give me. Spreading ideas can be very practical.

  10. [...] policy, but this one notably is concerned he has gone too far. We’re at a point now where Obama is counting ”all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,” as administration officials [...]

  11. [...] administration is using an overly broad method for choosing targets and counting corpses which basically presupposes that all military-age males killed by U.S. drones are combatants, whether they are known to be militants or [...]

  12. [...] is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Operating on the principle of guilty until proven innocent is an extreme form of Executive Branch [...]

  13. [...] there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Operating on the principle ofguilty until proven innocent is an extreme form of Executive Branch [...]

  14. [...] needs” and what not, but she’s on the right track regarding drones. See here and here for more of the growing chorus of official and expert opinion saying the drone war is murder, [...]

  15. Sir,
    Even last year, before the GE 2008, the situation was the same. Not many flags was seen on cars and buildings. Even then, the rakyat was already fed-up with the state of affairs in this country. You are spot on, sir, when you say something is missing in the atmosphere this year. After the elections, there was widespread coffee shop talk and everyone had something to say about it. Now, there is an eerie silence among the folks. It seems, they are again fed-up with what’s going on. Well, there you are. A bleak Merdeka is our lot. Happy Merdeka to you, sir. You are the foremost statesman of our times.

  16. “It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

  17. [...] is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Operating on the principle of guilty until proven innocent is an extreme form of Executive Branch [...]

  18. Obama, performing his stand up routine, inadvertently brings the horrors of drone warfare home. Check out the gonzo animation, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, at earthens.net

  19. When you say, "I live in the geographic US, but again: I'm not occupying other peoples' homes nor supporting the individuals who do.", consider all of the things you buy which are taxed in the US I have no way of knowing whether your efforts add up to supporting war or ending it; however, I have known anarchist who don't support the war (in their opinion) but do pay plenty in US taxes…. http://thegioioplung.com/Danh-muc/bao-da-op-lung-

  20. I look forward to a life of peace, not war for everyone, but it will be impossible

    .. .http://miengdanthammohoi.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/mieng-dan-tham-mo-hoi-nach-ao/

  21. Having said that, even if you are paying taxes to support a war under the threat of violence, it still remains that your money may be helping to support the war even though you are giving it up involuntarily. Note that I said "may" in the previous sentence. Isn't it true that regardless of whether or not I pay income taxes or regardless or not I refrain from shopping at a store that requires I pay a sales tax (VAT), the US Government will still pass a spending bill on the war in Congress just as large? The government can make their own money–they don't rely on collecting my money as much as I may initially assume. Of course if everyone refused to pay taxes then the state would starve, but my point is that I think that advocating against the war with words to others is more important than making sure that you don't eat a restaurant with a sales tax, etc.

  22. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House.I live in the geographic US, i like this

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  29. This is because you may still be paying for the wars. Of course voluntarily paying for them and paying for them under duress are significantly different things from a moral perspective.
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  30. I dont like war seriously

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