Four important reports that touch on the issue of drone warfare have appeared in recent weeks. While space forbids a detailed review of the reports, each in turn is extremely useful and well worth reading.
Cage Prisoners have released Unnecessary and Disproportional: The Killings of Anwar and Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki . The report examines the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and the separate killing of his 16-year old son Abdul Rahman in US drone strikes. The report contradicts the narrative put forward by the US authorities and generally accepted by the media that al-Awlaki was as a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the mastermind behind several attacks against the USA. Using the two killings as case studies, the report also raises important issues about the UK’s involvement in targeted killings as more evidence emerges of British citizens that have been killed in drone attacks including evidence to suggest that British authorities actively assist the CIA in its drone programme. Read more →
Over the weekend Codepink, CCR and Reprieve hosted an international summit on drone warfare in Washington DC. Unfortunately we were not able to attend but did take part ‘virtually’ via twitter and livestream feed.
Lots of videos and more from the sessions will be posted soon on their new Drones Watch website. However one of the highlights of the event, a speech by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation, one of the few journalists to travel to countries where the covert drone war is playing out, is already available thanks to Kevin Gosztola, and well worth watching (see Kevin’s blog post here)
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 →
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.