Nov 26, 2013
A new report from a leading watchdog on drone missile use concludes that there have been more deaths from strikes in the six months AFTER president Obama announced a new “constraint” on use of the technology than there were in the six months before.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London says that their new analysis calls into question the promise by Obama to limit the use of drones in targeted killings of suspected terrorists overseas.
Obama made the remarks in an address at the National Defense University back in May, stating that “The same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power – or risk abusing it.”
The president even called into question the morality of drone missile use, and briefed the media on a potential overhaul of targeted killing policy and so called ‘signature strikes’.
The headlines that followed suggested that there was to be “important shifts in the policy of using unmanned drones to kill citizens of other countries.” The Mainstream media reported that the US military would be exclusively handed responsibility for all drone strikes outside of Afghanistan, and that deaths from the attacks would likely be significantly reduced.
None of that has happened.
Indeed, as the Bureau reports, While the number of covert strikes fell in Yemen and Pakistan in the six months after the speech, “the overall death toll has increased.”
“In Yemen, civilians have reportedly been killed in drone strikes after the speech.” the report notes. “Between six and seven civilians were reported killed, two of whom were said to be children.”
“It also emerged this month that the US knew it had killed civilians in strikes after the speech.” the report continues.
“The LA Times reported that the CIA briefed Congress about civilian casualties, including a child aged 6-13 who had been riding in a car with his older brother, an alleged militant, when the drones attacked. The CIA reportedly did not know he was in the car at the time.”
The Bureau notes that every single drone strike in Yemen in the six months since Obama’s speech came during one intense two week period in late July and August. Eight strikes were carried out in response, we were told, to intelligence that a Yemeni terrorist plot was about to go live.
In the same period, the US temporarily closed over 20 embassies and consulates in Africa and the Middle East, fearing a repeat of the Benghazi attack of 2012.
It is thought that at least 29 people were killed by the drone strikes, “but only three of them were described in reports as significant leaders in the group.” the Bureau notes.
In Pakistan, the prevailing trend of fewer deaths from drone strikes since 2009 has been reversed since Obama promised more restraint. “In the six months before the speech, an average of 3.5 people were killed in each strike. Since the speech this has risen to almost five.” the report notes.
Many of the strikes in Pakistan were thought to have targeted Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistan Taliban, who is now reported to have been killed three times already.
In October, a 97-page report by Human Rights Watch came to the conclusion that drone strikes against suspected members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen are killing more civilians than suspected terrorists. The report noted that out of 82 people killed in 6 HRW case study attacks, 57 were civilians.
- KP treasury benches lawmakers submit memorandum against drone strikes in US Consulate (sananews.net)
- Report: More Drone Strike Deaths Since Obama Announced New âConstraintâ (rinf.com)
- Do drones work? (sbs.com.au)
- Yasmine Taeb: A Drone Victim’s Message to the United States (huffingtonpost.com)