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Living Under Drones - Death, Injury, And Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan

Living Under Drones - Death, Injury, And Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan

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Published by mauro.pennacchietti
http://livingunderdrones.org/


Executive Summary and Recommendations
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 US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.[1]

This narrative is false.

Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.

Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.

It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.[3] TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.

Second, US 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. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of f
http://livingunderdrones.org/


Executive Summary and Recommendations
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 US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.[1]

This narrative is false.

Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.

Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.

It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.[3] TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.

Second, US 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. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of f

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Published by: mauro.pennacchietti on Oct 10, 2012
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The Long War Journal, a project run by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,
claims that 138 civilians have been killed between 2006 and the present. Unlike the New
America Foundation and TBIJ, discussed below, The Long War Journal does not make
its data available in a strike-by-strike format. Instead, it publishes blog posts about new

222 Roggio & Mayer, supra note 157.

223 The Year of the Drone, supra note 221.

224 Covert War on Terror—The Data, supra note 206.

225 The Year of the Drone, supra note 221.

226 Roggio & Mayer, supra note 157. Long War Journal does not keep drone strike data for the years 2004
and 2005. Id.
227 See Bergen & Rowland, supra note 152; Entous, supra note 149.

228 Covert War on Terror—The Data, supra note 206.

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strikes soon after they are initially reported, and maintains a series of regularly updated
statistical graphs.229 The strike information in its blog posts is based on reports by major
media outlets and on the Journal’s own investigations,230 which appear to consist
primarily of conversations with unnamed “US intelligence officials.”231 One analysis of
drone tallies asserts that The Long War Journal’s methodology places great weight on
US intelligence sources, especially when distinguishing between Taliban/Al Qaeda and
civilian casualties.232 According to The Long War Journal’s managing editor, Bill
Roggio, for the purposes of categorizing strike deaths, all those killed are counted as
“Taliban/Al Qaeda” unless “they are identified as civilians.”233

This raises two major concerns about the accuracy of The Long War Journal’s statistical
claims. First, because The Long War Journal does not make its data visible in a strike-
by-strike format, it is impossible to tell whether and where its editors have logged
credibly reported civilian casualties, or to tell whether they update older strike data
regularly to reflect new information as it comes to light. The only strike-specific
information available on its website comes in the form of blog posts written by
managing editor Bill Roggio.234 Those posts usually appear within twenty-four hours of
each new strike, citing initial reports from major media outlets that almost invariably
assert that only “Taliban/Al Qaeda” were killed.235 Second, The Long War Journal’s

229 See LONG WAR JOURNAL, www.longwarjournal.org.

230 Roggio & Mayer, supra note 157.

231 See, e.g., Bill Roggio, Latest US Drone Strike Kills 10 ‘Militants’ in South Waziristan, LONG WAR
JOURNAL (June 3, 2012), http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/06/latest_us_drone_stri.php;
Bill Roggio, North Waziristan Drone Strike Kills 4 ‘Militants’, LONG WAR JOURNAL (June 13, 2012),
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/06/us_drone_strike_kill_7.php; Bill Roggio, US Drones
Kill 15 in North Waziristan
, LONG WAR JOURNAL (June 4, 2012),
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/06/us_drone_kill_15_in.php.
232 Avery Plaw, Matthew S. Fricker, & Brian Glyn Williams, Practice Makes Perfect? The Changing
Civilian Toll of CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan
, 5 PERSPECTIVES ON TERRORISM 51, 58 (Dec. 2011)(observing
that “the Long War Journal relies heavily on U.S. intelligence sources.”). Plaw, Fricker, and Williams
have generated numerous reports using their own strike database, currently known as the UMassDRONE
project, but have not made it available to the public. See, e.g., id.; Williams, Fricker, & Plaw, supra note
158, at 8.
233 See Sharon Weinberger, Pakistani Scholar Disputes US Drone Death Tallies, AOL NEWS (May 19,
2010) (quoting Bill Roggio as saying that “I’m using the opposite approach . . . I only count when they are
identified as civilians.”), http://www.aolnews.com/2010/05/19/pakistani-scholar-disputes-low-drone-
death-tallies/.
234 See LONG WAR JOURNAL, www.longwarjournal.org.

235 See, e.g., Roggio, Latest US Drone Strike Kills 10 ‘Militants’ in South Waziristan, supra note 231;
Roggio, North Waziristan Drone Strike Kills 4 ‘Militants’, supra note 231; Roggio, US Drones Kill 15 in
North Waziristan
, supra note 231; Bill Roggio, US Drones Strike in Miramshah’s Bazaar, Kill 3

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practice of labeling all drone victims as “Taliban/Al Qaeda” unless they are specifically
identified as civilians,236 combined with its reliance on demonstrably untrustworthy
government reports corroborated by comments from anonymous US intelligence
sources, raises questions about whether its drone strike statistics underestimate civilian
deaths.

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