How to Disappear Completely: Lessons from the Antiwar Left, Pt. 2

Episode II: Attack of the Drones

In January of this year, the President took a bold step in revealing the once-covert drone war in Northwest Pakistan.

But even upon this admission, the White House has taken the position that, in court, due to the secretive nature of the Pakistan operation, it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the drone attacks. This ridiculous maneuvering has waived Obama from having to comply with judicial review or any Freedom of Information Act requests, because doing so would supposedly threaten national security.

It’s Bush on steroids.

The claim the President would make minutes after is equally interesting, however. “I want to make sure people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties,” Obama told viewers of an hour-long Google+ forum.

While the Obama Administration stashes the drone program alongside Schrodinger’s Cat, a recently released joint effort by the New York University School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic and Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic suggests otherwise.

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.

This narrative is false.

These chilling statements serve as a dark atrium for the disturbing data inside the NYU/Stanford report, entitled “Living Under Drones.” The research indicates that a mere 2 percent of all drone strike victims in Pakistan have been “high level” targets. The dead consist of hundreds of civilians, including 176 children. The study notes thousands of injured, as well.

In their nine months documenting Obama’s drone attacks, the NYU/Stanford team has revealed the horror incurred by civilians on the ground.

U.S. drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.

“Living Under Drones” also reveals instances of the U.S. Military striking the same area multiple times, intentionally killing rescuers and humanitarian workers, as well as an unwillingness to assist injured victims.

The report concludes that evidence of Pakistani drone attacks having made the U.S. safer is “ambiguous at the best.”

There has been no statement from the White House regarding the new figures, and the government has maintained that the civilian death toll in Pakistan is “zero” or in the “single digits.”

A United Nations expert on humanitarian law has deemed some of Obama’s drone strikes in Pakistan a violation of international law and labeled the attacks “war crimes.”

Will liberal critics and protesters gather en masse to demand that a President responsible for the deaths of innocents be brought to justice, as they did when there was an (R) beside his name?

To date, Obama has approved the uses of drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia — and most recently — expanded the campaign to Libya.

An October 23, 2012 report indicates that France will send drones to the West African nation of Mali, and suggests America may follow.


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