It's difficult to get hard information about our Drone Wars. The government doesn't want to share that information with us. It doesn't matter whether Democrats or Republicans are in office, they don't want you to know who they are killing in your name.
I'm not writing about our Congress-approved war in Afghanistan. I'm writing about the presidential decision to bomb countries where the governments are allied: Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.
However, because of a few choice statements and some analysis, we have three important facts.
“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham said, according to an Easley website. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al-Qaida.” Graham did not evidently offer an estimate of how many innocent people the drones have killed.Gawd knows if this number is anywhere close to being real, but it’s the first public death toll provided by a U.S. government official. So we pretty much have to accept it until someone in the government leaks more accurate information.
Recall that drone strikes are supposed to be surgical. By using Graham's number, we can do some estimating.
Using the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s count, the U.S. has launched between 416 and 439 drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia since the U.S. first successfully weaponized an MQ-1 Predator a decade ago. If Graham’s right, each strike would have to kill more than 10 people.Are we really killing 10 terrorists at a time? It seems hard to believe.
Which brings us to our second fact:
It is ultimately impossible to get exact numbers, but a new study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute finds that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes are “significantly and consistently underestimated” by tracking organizations which are trying to take the place of government estimates on casualties.To be fair, the CIA has been using the double-tap strategy for a lot longer than Hamas has been around.
There are estimates as high as 98% of drone strike casualties being civilians (50 for every one "suspected terrorist"). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism issued a report detailing how the CIA is deliberately targeting those who show up after the sight of an attack, rescuers, and mourners at funerals as a part of a "double-tap" strategy eerily reminiscient of methods used by terrorist groups like Hamas.
Which brings us to the final Drone War fact:
Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post reports — after interviews with tribal leaders, victims’ relatives, human rights activists and officials from four provinces in southern Yemen — that "unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population."Personally, I never thought that the War on (some) Terror was even meant to be won; only to be fought. It seems the Drone War is most effective for creating an enemy for us to fight. Otherwise we might actually be spending those trillions of dollars towards building something good.
Raghavan notes that since Barack Obama ordered the first air strike in Yemen in 2009, the number of core AQAP members in Yemen have more than doubled from 300 to at least 700.
Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University told the BCC that the number is closer to 1,000 and the "more the US bombs, the more they grow," noting that al-Qaeda is adept at using the deaths of women and children to recruit people for revenge...
"That one bombing radicalized the entire area," Abdul Gh ani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst, said. "All the men and boys from those families and tribes will have joined [al-Qaeda] to fight."