The United States has embraced a new way of war, and it the Obama Administration has embraced the Lethal Presidency. This doctrine of war uses drones strikes to target and assassinate those that President Obama deems to be in need of extrajudicial execution. However, the supposed surgical ability of drones to target individuals has come at a high cost to civilians.
No matter. The administration simply redefined who is a civilian. Now, the New America Foundation (NAF) has issued a report claiming that civilian casualties have plummeted, and this year they are nonexistent. According to the report, written by Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland, used reports from The New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press to compile there numbers. Chris Woods at the BIJ explains the problem with the report:
Up to July 16 for example, between three and 27 civilians have been reported killed in Pakistan this year, out of 148 – 220 deaths. Some were actively defined as civilians by news organizations including Reuters and AFP. But these are not necessarily the only civilian deaths. Ambivalent reports might sometimes refer only to ‘people’ or ‘local tribesmen’ killed. More research is needed. And of the remaining alleged militants killed, we have so far been able to name just 13 individuals.
Bergen’s claim of zero reported civilian casualties this year is therefore factually inaccurate. To be so categoric is also problematic. The Bureau’s own data shows that of at least 2,500 people killed by the CIA in Pakistan since 2004, we publicly only know the identities of around 500. Most of the others were reported to be alleged militants by local and international media. We can say no more than that.
It is not just in NAF’s 2012 data that credible reports of civilian deaths have been missed or ignored. NAF’s Pakistan data also contains many other inaccuracies. A number of confirmed strikes are omitted, for instance, and its overall estimates of those killed are significantly below even the CIA’s own count. The consequence is a skewed picture of drone activity which continues to inform many opinion-makers.
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