US Drone Kills 8 in Northwest Pakistan

The program is still technically secret despite widespread acknowledgement, probably because it is illegal

A U.S. drone attack fired missiles at a house in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region near the Afghan border Wednesday, killing eight people, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, barred from speaking about foreign bombs killing people on their soil because the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan is technically classified. This, despite an open acknowledgement of the program by President Obama just last week.

The attack occurred in Spalga village where militants fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan reside. But the identities of the 8 people killed were not known or released by the government. U.S. policy is typically to refer to anyone who has been killed drones as “terrorists,” whether they are or not.

The drone program kills large numbers of civilians and creates significant tension between the U.S. and Pakistani governments. The London-based  Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recently published an important new investigation into America’s drone war in Pakistan, finding that many strikes have deliberately launched follow-up attacks, killing people “who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.”

The Obama administration has launched hundreds of strikes in the past few years, despite the drone campaign resting on very shaky legal and moral ground. Naz Modirzadeh, Associate Director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University,  was interviewed by the Bureau and said killing people at a rescue site may have no legal justification.

“Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution,” she said. “We don’t even need to get to the nuance of who’s who, and are people there for rescue or not. Because each death is illegal. Each death is a murder in that case.”

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.