The concern that drones make armed attacks and military intervention more likely is often rejected by the military and the drone industry, who argue that the drone pilots are able to stand above the ‘fog and friction’ of the battlefield and to make dispassionate and rational decisions about whether or not to use ‘kinetic force’.
We’re reposting this short report, together with the links to further information, that we have just received today:
Centcom.mil released on 22 March 2012 a declassified 2,100-page report on slaughter of 23 Afghan non-combatants – men, women, children – in February 2010, blamed on Creech drone pilots over-enthusiastically calling in Hellfires on a 3-vehicle civilian convoy.
Minutely detailed descriptions are provided of how drones are directed from screeners at Centcom and pilots at Creech AFB using a battery of secure communications devices: IRC chat, radio, video, satellites, VOIP, telephone, not all of which are coordinated and supervised and thus lead to disaster.
Pilots of choppers which fired the Hellfire missiles claim drone operators cannot be trusted due to lack of contact with real world conditions on the ground and because mission controllers at Creech reward “Top Gun” aggressiveness. Read more →
For the first time, the United States has confirmed that it is undertaking drone strikes in Pakistan.
Many may feel that this has long been an open secret as unnamed officials regularly take to the press about CIA drone strikes. However the admition by President Obama during a ‘Google online hangout’ will no doubt have legal and political implications. In september 2011 a Federal Judge dismissed an ACLU lawsuit seeking information about CIA drone strikes in Pakistan as the CIA would not confirm or deny the drone strikes took place.
Meanwhile other drone ‘beasts’ continue to rampage. There has been two days of violence in Gaza following an Israeli drone strike. According to the Irish Times “Gaza residents said a 42-year-old civilian was killed in an Israeli air strike on Hamas training facility. Seven members of the man’s family were wounded, including his father, wife and five of his children.”
And no doubt, US and UK drone strikes in Afghanistan continue completely unreported. Time these drone ‘beasts’ were caged too.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have released new figures related to British drone strikes in Afghanistan in response to a question from Green MP Caroline Lucas this week. The figures, which Defence Minister Nick Harvey says are of ‘weapons released’ are for the first time broken down annually, so we are able to fill in more details about the rate of use (see table below). No doubt on some occasions more than one weapon is “released” during individual attacks.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) a not-for-profit investigative journalism organisation, has uncovered compelling evidence of civilian deaths in US drone strikes in Pakistan. The evidence directly contradicts the recent statement by President Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser that ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death’ in Pakistan since August 2010
As well as reviewing all available media reports, the Bureau has worked with lawyers and researchers representing civilians reportedly killed in attacks. And they have employed researchers in Waziristan to corroborate evidence relating to particular strikes.
The Bureau has examined 116 reported CIA drone strikes in Pakistan between August 23 2010 and June 29 2011. They have found that between them, the attacks have killed at least 740 people, among them 36 named fighters from al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups. Hundreds of unnamed low-ranking fighters are also likely to be among the dead.
But civilian deaths have been credibly reported in more than one in five of the strikes. To date, the Bureau has identified 45-56 civilian victims across 10 individual strikes – the most recent in mid-June 2011. The dead include six children.
For more details see the following stories on the TBIJ website:
These reports raise serious questions about the UK’s own 170+ drone strikes in Afghanistan. The MoD was forced to admit for the first time this month that Afghan civilians had been killed in a British drone strike. They continue to maintain however that this was a on-off due to “intelligence failures on the ground.”
While military and counter-terrorism officials can blithely state from thousands of miles away that there are no civilian casualties, the story on the ground appears to be very different. I have no doubt that further details about civilain casualties from British drone strikes in Afghanistan will emerge.