A new report by researchers at the Stanford and NYU schools of law has found that the drone program is “terrorizing” the people of Pakistan and that it is having “counterproductive” effects.
The report’s conclusions are based on nine months of intensive research – including two on-site investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims and their relatives, eye-witness and expert accounts, and a deep review of media reporting.
The US drone war in Pakistan not only kills and injures civilians, the report finds, but it traumatizes the population and has led people to keep their children home from school and to avoid any large grouping of people, however innocent. It also says the drone war has helped recruitment efforts of extremist groups like al-Qaeda.
The report also finds that there is strong evidence that drone strikes have targeted rescuers running towards bombed sites in follow-up attacks, something Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has said would constitute war crimes.
“Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning,” the study reports. “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 strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%,” says the report.
The report cites investigations by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism as the most comprehensive aggregate data on the drones. Their numbers conclude that drones in Pakistan have killed 2,562-3,325 people, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.
“Evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, ‘drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.’ Drone strikes have also soured many Pakistanis on cooperation with the US and undermined US-Pakistani relations. One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy.”
The BBC offers this bullet-point summary of the main findings in the report:
- children are being taken out of school out of fear of a drone-strike or to compensate for income lost from a dead or wounded relative
- there is “significant evidence” of the practice of “double-tap” strikes in which rescuers arriving at the scene are targeted in follow-up attacks
- drones flying overhead have led to “substantial levels of fear and stress… in the civilian communities”
- as well as injury or death, the attacks cause property damage, severe economic hardship and emotional trauma for the injured and their families
- people are afraid to attend gatherings such as funerals for fear of attack
The report warns that there are serious legal issues with the Obama administration’s execution of the drone war, and urges more transparency and reform.
“A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan,” the report said.
10 thoughts on “Study: ‘Counterproductive’ Drone War ‘Terrorizes’ Civilians in Pakistan”
Not to condone civilian casualties but these are the norm in the bloody Middle East. How many innocent civilians have been killed in martyrdom at the hands of Al Qaida? A lot of the problem here is that the Pakistani government is unwilling or incapable of dealing with the terrorists leaving no choice but to use the drones. Sorry but the drones are much better than sacrificing American lives. One dead terrorist will probably save hundreds of innocent lives.
Dude, you need help. YOUR government invented and financed Al Qaeda. YOUR government created the problem. YOUR government is invading their countries and killing them. YOUR government is the problem. YOUR government is the terrorist!
How do we know they're terrorists? It seems we have only the CIA's word for it since they are completely unaccountable to the elected representatives od the American people. I'm not saying some aren't but I think it's more nuanced than just terrorists vs good guys.
The Afghans who cross the border for example. You ever notice how they were freedom fighters when they were fighting the Soviet occupation of their country but they're terrorists or insurgents now that they're fighting the American occupation of their country? And of course the murder of first responders to a drone attack scene is a war crime on par with anything the Nazis ever did.
Hey, Dude, these innocent civilians are being MURDERED by the U S government. Does it make you feel any better knowing that it is on YOUR dime? "Daddy, why do they hate us?"
Ya think? And isn't that what many around the world — including those who are being terrorized — have been saying for years now? The US is without question, the biggest terrorist on the face of the planet and 16 MILLION dead civilians prove it.
Their side has IEDs, suicide bombers and truck and car bombs: our side has drones. That seems like a reasonable riposte to me.
One must hope that Pakistan purges its current useless political body for one that ceases all ties with the US, shoots down and destroys all drones in their territory, and merges closer to China. The current Pakistani government is a party to these premeditated killings, and must be punished for it.
Justice will come in the name of drones terrorizing American citizens in the very near future. If the scoundrels-in-charge can terrorize other peoples, they will be insensitive to Americans under the same conditions. There are plenty of excuses, including the war on drugs and disarming Americans. This is all in progress and soon the rest of the world will get to watch it, play by play, on their TVs – eating pop corn.
Justice will also come in the name of hatred of everything American, a direct result from our attacks – hatred from the victims, their extended families, their friends, their neighbors, and fellow Muslims.
Justice will come from a total loss of respect from the rest of the world. How can human being have the slightest respect for a society that permits such state terrorism to take place? We are talking about state terrorism from the most powerful nation in the world (or so we think).
The future looks pretty grim for America and Americans when you consider all of the evil seeds being planted in our name. If we keep it up we will be welcome nowhere and nobody will want to buy our products or services.
Nothing good, absolutely nothing, can come of our immoral and illegal actions – nothing.
what planet are you all from?
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