By Arlen Grossman/ The Big Picture Report
Hillary Clinton holds a small U.S.-made drone that the Ugandan military uses in Somalia to fight al-Qaeda linked militants.(Credit: Reuters)
A comprehensive report, Living Under Drones, released in last September by the Stanford International Human Rights & Conflict Resolution Center and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law challenges the prevailing American view that the use of unmanned drone strikes is a precise and effective tool in combating terrorism.
Among the major points from their study, based on nine months of research and extensive interviews in Pakistan with civilian victims, doctors, humanitarian workers, journalists, etc:
1) “While civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.” The U.S. government typically denies or understates civilian casualties from drone strikes, and official data is hard to come by. This report, using figures from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (a London-based, independent investigative organization) indicates 2562 to 3325 people killed by drones in Pakistan since 2004, of whom 474 to 881 are civilians, 176 of them children.
2) “US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.” The report describes the psychological trauma of civilians knowing that strikes can occur at any time and knowing they are powerless to protect themselves. Family members have reported being afraid to attend funerals of victims because such gatherings have been targeted by drone attacks. The report also talks about the “double trap,” in which a drone strike is followed up by another strike that kills rescuers and medical personnel, leaving first responders afraid to assist injured victims in the future.
3) “Publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best.” They are more likely to increase recruitment for militant groups. A recent Pew Research Center study found 74% percent of Pakistanis consider the U.S. an enemy. According to the New York Times, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”
4) “Current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents.” These attacks are carried out by the CIA and not the military, in countries that the U.S. is not at war with. Other governments may feel they also have a right, as the U.S. appears to feel it does, to target drone strikes on human targets without transparency or accountability.
Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation is assisting in spreading the information on the report with this short video: