In the category of "the sky is blue," "fire is hot" and "the sun rises in the east," the Guardian reports on a new study showing that Washington's murderous drone killing campaign in Pakistan is "counterproductive."
The sarcasm above is not meant to cast aspersions on the report itself -- which is detailed, devastating, and very productive -- but on the prevailing mindset in the ruling circles of the West (the self-proclaimed "defenders of civilization") that makes such a study even necessary, much less "controversial."
Thus the new report, by the law schools of New York University and Stanford (a famously if not notoriously conservative institution) should be, in a sane and rational world, a case of carrying coals to Newscastle or selling ice to the Inuit: an exercise in redunancy.
But instead, sadly, the report, "Living Under Drones," is a very, very rare instance of speaking truth to the power that is waging a hideous campaign of terror -- there is no other word for it -- against innocent people all over the world.
The Guardian gives a good overview of the report:
"The CIA's programme of 'targeted' drone killings in Pakistan's tribal heartlands is politically counterproductive, kills large numbers of civilians and undermines respect for international law, according to a report by US academics. The study by Stanford and New York universities' law schools, based on interviews with victims, witnesses and experts, blames the US president, Barack Obama, for the escalation of 'signature strikes' in which groups are selected merely through remote 'pattern of life' analysis.
"'Families are afraid to attend weddings or funerals, it says, in case US ground operators guiding drones misinterpret them as gatherings of Taliban or al-Qaida militants.
"'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 killings' of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false,' the report, entitled Living Under Drones, states. ...
"The 'best available information,' they say, is that between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year -- of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. The figures have been assembled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which estimated that a further 1,300 individuals were injured in drone strikes over that period. ...
"'US drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in north-west Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning,' the American law schools report says. '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 behaviour. 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.'
"The study goes on to say: 'Publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best ... The number of 'high-level' militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- estimated at just 2% [of deaths]. Evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks ... One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy."
A powerful story, setting out the lineaments of the report with admirable concision. But then the Guardian correspondent, Owen Bowcott [or his inserting editors], betray heartbreaking naivete:
"Coming from American lawyers rather than overseas human rights groups, the criticisms are likely to be more influential in US domestic debates over the legality of drone warfare."
The truth, of course, is that regardless of its "Homeland" provenance, this report will have no influence whatsoever on the non-existent "debate over the legality of drone warfare" in the United States. For beyond the rare, isolated op-ed, there is no "debate" on drone warfare in American political or media circles. The bipartisan political establishment is united in its support of the practice; indeed, both parties plan to expand the use of drones on a large scale in the future. This murderous record -- and this shameful complicity -- will be one of the Peace Laureate's lasting legacies, whether he wins re-election or not.
As the story notes:
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