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Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes

The U.S. is conducting drone strikes in in at least three countries beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. Here’s a reading guide to understanding the U.S.’ shadow wars.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle. The U.S. is conducting drone strikes in in at least three countries beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Stanley Thompson)

This post has been updated. It was originally published Jan. 11, 2013.

Jan. 11, 2013: This post has been corrected.

You might have heard about the “kill list.” You’ve certainly heard about drones. But the details of the U.S. campaign against militants in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia -- a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s national security approach – remain shrouded in secrecy. Here’s our guide to what we know—and what we don’t know.

Where is the drone war? Who carries it out?

Drones have been the Obama administration’s tool of choice for taking out militants outside of Iraq and Afghanistan. Drones aren’t the exclusive weapon – traditional airstrikes and other attacks have also been reported. But by one estimate, 95 percent of targeted killings since 9/11 have been conducted by drones.  Among the benefits of drones: they don’t put American troops in harm’s way.

The first reported drone strike against Al Qaeda happened in Yemen in 2002. The CIA ramped up secret drone strikes in Pakistan under President George W. Bush in 2008. Under Obama, they have expanded drastically there and in Yemen in 2011.

The CIA isn’t alone in conducting drone strikes. The military has acknowledged “direct action” in Yemen and Somalia. Strikes in those countries are reportedly carried out by the secretive, elite Joint Special Operations Command. Since 9/11, JSOC has grown more than tenfold, taking on intelligence-gathering as well as combat roles. (For example, JSOC was responsible for the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden.)  

The drone war is carried out remotely, from the U.S.  and a network of secret bases around the world. The Washington Post got a glimpse – through examining construction contracts and showing up uninvited – at the base in the tiny African nation of Djibouti from which many of the strikes on Yemen and Somalia are carried out. Earlier this year, Wired pieced together an account of the war against Somalia’s al-Shabaab militant group and the U.S.’s expanded military presence throughout Africa.

The number of strikes in Pakistan has ebbed in recent years, from a peak of more than 100 in 2010, to an estimated 46 last year. Meanwhile, the pace in Yemen picked up, with more than 40 last year. But there have been seven strikes in Pakistan in the first ten days of 2013.

How are targets chosen?

A series of articles based largely on anonymous comments from administration officials have given partial picture of how the U.S. picks targets and carries out strikes. Two recent reports – from researchers at Columbia Law School and from the Council on Foreign Relations– also give detailed overviews of what’s known about the process.

The CIA and the military have reportedly long maintained overlapping “kill lists.” According to news reports last spring, the military’s list was hashed out in Pentagon-run interagency meetings, with the White House approving proposed targets. Obama would authorize particularly sensitive missions himself.

This year, the process reportedly changed, to concentrate the review of individuals and targeting criteria in the White House. According to the Washington Post, the reviews now happen at regular interagency meetings at the National Counterterrorism Center. Recommendations are sent to a panel of National Security Council officials. Final revisions go through White House counterterror adviser John Brennan to the president. Several profiles have highlighted Brennan’s powerful and controversial role in shaping the trajectory of the targeted killing program. This week, Obama nominated Brennan to head the CIA.

At least some CIA strikes don’t have to get White House signoff. The director of the CIA can reportedly green-light strikes in Pakistan. In a 2011 interview, John Rizzo, previously the CIA’s top lawyer, said agency attorneys did an exhaustive review of each target.

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration's recent effort to impose more stringent requirements for kill lists and signature strikes exempts the CIA's campaign in Pakistan. The CIA will have at least a year to continue strikes in Pakistan according to its own protocols.

Doesn’t the U.S. sometimes target people whose names they don’t know?

Yes.  While administration officials often have frequently framed drone strikes as going after “high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks” against the U.S., many strikes go after apparent militants whose identities the U.S. doesn’t know. The so-called “signature strikes” began under Bush in early 2008 and were expanded by Obama. Exactly what portion of strikes are signature strikes isn’t clear.

At various points the CIA’s use of signature strikes in Pakistan in particular have caused tensions with the White House and State Department. One official told the New York Times about a joke that for the CIA, “three guys doing jumping jacks,” was a terrorist training camp.

In Yemen and Somalia, there is debate about whether the militants targeted by the U.S. are in fact plotting against the U.S. or instead fighting against their own country. Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has been critical of the drone program, toldProPublica that the U.S. is essentially running “a counterinsurgency air force” for allied countries. At times, strikes have relied on local intelligence that later proves faulty. The Los Angeles Times recently examined the case of a Yemeni man killed by a U.S. drone and the complex web of allegiances and politics surrounding his death.

How many people have been killed in strikes?

The precise number isn’t known, but some estimates peg the total around 3,000.

A number of groups are tracking strikes and estimating casualties:

·         The Long War Journal covers Pakistan and Yemen.

·         The New America Foundation covers Pakistan.

·         The London Bureau of Investigative Journalism covers Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, as well as statistics from on drone strikes carried out in Afghanistan.

How many of those killed are have been civilians?

It’s impossible to know.

There has been considerable back-and-forth about the tally of civilian casualties. For instance, the New America Foundation estimates between 261 and 305 civilians have been killed in Pakistan; The Bureau of Investigative Journalism gives a range of 475 - 891. All of the counts are much higher than the very low numbers of deaths the administration claims. (We’ve detailed inconsistencies even within those low estimates.)  Some analyses show that civilian deaths have dropped proportionally in recent years.

The estimates are largely compiled by interpreting news reports relying on anonymous officials or accounts from local media, whose credibility may vary. (For example, the Washington Post reported last month that the Yemeni government often tries to conceal the U.S.’ role in airstrikes that kill civilians.)

The controversy has been compounded by the fact that the U.S. reportedly counts any military-age male killed in a drone strike as a militant. An administration official told ProPublica, “If a group of fighting age males are in a home where we know they are constructing explosives or plotting an attack, it's assumed that all of them are in on that effort.” It’s not clear what if any investigation occurs after the fact.

Columbia Law School conducted an in-depth analysis of what we know about the U.S.’s efforts to mitigate and calculate civilian casualties. It concluded that the drone war’s covert nature hampered accountability measures taken in traditional military actions. Another report from Stanford and NYU documented “anxiety and psychological trauma” among Pakistani villagers.

This fall, the U.N. announced an investigation into the civilian impact – in particular, allegations of “double-tap” strikes, in which a second strike targets rescuers.

Why just kill? What about capture?

Administration officials have said in speeches that militants are targeted for killing when they pose an imminent threat to the U.S. and capture isn’t feasible. But killing appears to be is far more common than capture, and accounts of strikes don’t generally shed light on “imminent” or “feasible.”  Cases involving secret, overseas captures under Obama show the political and diplomatic quandaries in deciding how and where a suspect could be picked up.

This fall, the Washington Post described something called the “disposition matrix” – a process that has contingency plans for what to do with terrorists depending where they are. The Atlantic mapped out how that decision-making might happen in the case of a U.S. citizen, based on known examples. But of course, the details of the disposition matrix, like the “kill lists” it reportedly supplants, aren’t known.

What’s the legal rationale for all this?

Obama administration officials have given a series of speeches broadly outlining the legal underpinning for strikes, but they never talk about specific cases. In fact, they don’t officially acknowledge the drone war at all.   

 The White House argues that Congress’ 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as well as international law on nations’ right to self-defense provides sound legal basis for targeting individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda or “associated forces,” even outside Afghanistan. That can include U.S. citizens.

“Due process,” said Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech last March, “takes into account the realities of combat.”

What form that “due process” takes hasn’t been detailed. And, as we’ve reported, the government frequently clams up when it comes to specific questions – like  civilian casualties, or the reasons specific individuals were killed.

NBC News obtained a Justice Department memo that was given to some members of Congress in June laying out the administration's legal case for targeted killing in more detail. The memo, which was not classified, says that a U.S. citizen who is a "senior operational leader of al-Qaida or an associated force" can be targeted even if they are not tied to an active plot against the U.S. It also offers more detail on criteria for determining that capture is not feasible.

A federal judge had ruled earlier this year that the government did not have to release a separate secret legal memo making the specific case for the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen. The judge also ruled the government did not have to respond to other requests seeking more information about targeted killing in general.  (In making the ruling, the judge acknowledged a “Catch-22,” saying that the government claimed “as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”)

The U.S. has also sought to dismiss a lawsuit brought by family members over Awlaki’s death and that of his 16-year-old son – also a U.S. citizen -- who was killed in a drone strike.

When does the drone war end?

The administration has reportedly discussed scaling back the drone war, but by other accounts, it is formalizing the targeted killing program for the long haul. The U.S. estimates there Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a “few thousand” members; but officials have also said the U.S. cannot “capture or kill every last terrorist who claims an affiliation with al Qaeda.”

Jeh Johnson, who just stepped down as general counsel for the Pentagon, gave a speech last month entitled, “The Conflict Against Al Qaeda and its Affiliates: How Will It End?” He didn’t give a date.

 John Brennan has reportedly said the CIA should return to its focus on intelligence-gathering. But Brennan’s key role in running the drone war from the White House has led to debate about how much he would actually curtail the agency’s involvement if he is confirmed as CIA chief.

What about backlash abroad?

There appears to be plenty of it. Drone strikes are deeply unpopular in the countries where they occur, sparking frequent protests. Despite that, Brennan said last August that the U.S. saw,“little evidence that these actions are generating widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits.”

General Stanley McChrystal, who led the military in Afghanistan, recently contradicted that, saying, “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes ... is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who've never seen one or seen the effects of one.” The New York Times recently reported that Pakistani militants have carried out a campaign of brutal reprisals against locals, accusing them of spying for the U.S.

As for international governments: Top U.S. allies have mostly kept silent. A 2010 U.N. report raised concerns about the precedent of a covert, boundary-less war. The President of Yemen, Abdu Hadi, supports the U.S. campaign, while Pakistan maintains an uneasy combination of public protest and apparent acquiescence.

Who to Follow

For reporting and commentary on the drone war on Twitter:

@drones collects op-eds and news on well, drones. (Run by members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been outspoken about privacy concerns in the use of domestic drones, but it also covers national security.)

@natlsecuritycnn has breaking news.

@Dangerroom from Wired covers national security and technology, including a lot on drones.

@lawfareblog covers the drone war’s legal dimensions.

@gregorydjohnsen is an expert on Yemen, who is closely following the war there.

@AfPakChannel from the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy tweets news and commentary on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece referenced a speech given by former State Department legal adviser Harold Koh. The speech was in fact given by Jeh Johnson, then general counsel for the Pentagon.

trash trasisfree

Jan. 11, 2013, 3:10 p.m.

The only real difference between Nazi Germany’s V2 rockets and our drones, our drones kill far more people per attack. Many of them have nothing to do with terrorism. Every time you kill someone, especially children, you foster hate against America.

I think something that is missed about the drone strikes is who really all knows.  As you notice you don’t hear the major confrontation players from the UN being China and Russia complaining.  Everything about these drones surveillance or strike would be like kicking a bees nest regularly unless the CIA counterparts were being involved.  Nobody knows where these drones are taking off from because it could be anyway being prop driven.  They can also carry weaponry upto strategic nuclear weapons that can be mounted on a fighter and the surveillance drones are just common prop planes and don’t show significant speed or elevation and probably have some very interesting radar avoidance for tracking or targeting.  As at example Iran took a shot at one of them and either they intensionally missed or for some reason could hit a prop driven plan which would seem unlikely unless the technology prevented it and of course we tracked and recorded Iran’s encounter.  What I am saying is China and Russia knows about this program at a level that makes them comfortable and works perfect for them because they don’t want to be a particpant and have the crazy’s start going after them.

Drone is a dangerously smart tool but feasibly use-able for fighting against future’s global terrorists cornered in some land pieces of mostly brutal minded civilians.
Wise folks must take a note: this machine should be used honestly under one further honest UN-power led by ‘North-American non-violent public power. We are lusky to be the homeland of a emerging New UN power.
Realization of this human-thought, via fearless great leaders like Biden, Obama and you, is possible within only a decade.

A major difference between V2s and Drones, is that V2s were an unguided weapon, while the Drones are consciously directed against specific targets (admittedly, the use of Hellfire Missiles and 500lb LGBs does mean that the specific target covers quite a large area). So which is worse; indiscriminate attacks against a general population or targeted attacks against specific targets and their surroundings? Frankly I don’t know. All I know is that neither is likely to earn you friends.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Jan. 12, 2013, 12:25 p.m.

The drone program for killing people is totally wrong. It reduces the act of taking another human’s life down to a clean, removed act, without incurring any risks, and without having to witness the aftermath.

It is also an act of cowardice.

It is a tool of terror.

Instead of making us safer from “terrorist” it breeds terrorist, or hatred of our nation at least.

How do we know we are not on the “secret kill list”? Whatgets you on this list? Well, we sure know the only way off of it! Since the United States has been declared a battlefield, and the POTUS has decided that taking American Citizen’s lives overseas is legal for his office to administer, he can do it here and be all nice and legal. Great.

Our country has gone so far off the rails in what we are doing to ourselves and other nations, it’s doubtful we will ever get back to where we need to be.

James M. Fitzsimmons

Jan. 12, 2013, 3:56 p.m.

The difference in the media’s treatment of the Obama/Biden administration’s aggressive counter-terrorism policies vs. Bush/Cheney’s is stark. The media unabashedly tilts left and is apologetic for its heroes. The citizen who wants to be accurately informed has a formidable challenge. Thank you Cora Currier and ProPublica for this objective report.

“John Rizzo, previously the CIA’s top lawyer, said agency attorneys did an exhaustive review of each target.”

If that’s true, then why did they murder Abdulrahman Awlaki, an American teenager?

If they targeted him, they targeted an American child.  If they murdered him by accident, it proves that they’re indiscriminate about targeting.  After all, scores of others were killed along with him.  If the target is at a restaurant, murdering everyone present is just murder, pure and simple.

I suppose if the goal of the U.S. government is to subvert U.S. values, secret kill lists are a great option.

The “V” in V-1 and V-2 isGerman for “Vergeltungswqaffen,” or reprisal weapons used against Bomber Harris’  and Churchill’s blanket terror bombing of German cities. Churchill ordered the first terror bombing of Germany on May 1940, followed by Hitler’s warnings of reprisals if the firebombings did not cease. Churchill continued the bombings and the so-called Blitz began. Read David Irving;s “The War Between the Generals” and “Hitler’s War” for the REAL history nof WWII. Irving’s work is based upon original sources, de-coded intelligence material, personal memoirs, diaries and interviews with living witnesses of members of Hitler’s inner circle.  Not Hollywood Bolshevik scripwriters and pulp fiction con artists.

This is another disgusting abuse of power by OBOZO. There is no longer a threat of global terror after Arab Spring and the MURDERS he commits by using these weapons of indiscriminate destruction is simply another way of advancing the socialist goals set forth by his controllers. I will never support our troops so long as this evil man is the commander-in-chief.

Thanks for this. Question: why do you say, as well as other reporters, that the administration does not acknowledge the drone strikes? John Brennan has talked about them openly (e.g. http://www.npr.org/2012/05/01/151778804/john-brennan-delivers-speech-on-drone-ethics).

Or is that not considered an official acknowledgement?

OVER TWO THOUSAND WOMEN AND CHILDREN HAVE DIED . HOW CAN YOU KILL PEOPLE , AND YOU DONT EVEN KNOW THEIR NAMES . IT MEANS YOUR JUST KILLING AND DONT CARE OR REALLY RESEARCH ON WHOSE A TERRORIST . YOU ENJOY KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE . THIS YOUR VODOOO RITUAL KILLING MUST STOP IMMEDIATELY. I CALL ON YAWEH ABOUT THIS SITUATION

This war is not what we wanted but had no choice.  I do think at times about wars for the wrong reason just makes us become the same versus when we fight and die for the right reasons.  The people we are fighting have no rules or wear uniforms.  They embed themselves with innocent people in the hope they will be killed so we are identified as just killing innocent people.  We will be exiting all this because realize we can’t do it alone.  All the killing of innocent people will continue in some other form or fassion as it still does to much with us and time we start taking care of ourselves and have no problem with that.

Hey Tim, here’s a solution…
We do have a choice. How about we leave them the fuck alone. They are all innocent. We in he west are the fucking terrorists.  And now with the drones we are cowardly fucking terrorists. Wake the fuck up!

We better collectively believe in the ultimate power of CC (Clue is in http://www.shahislam.com). CC works through humans for the humans sometimes aggressively for humanly good reasons or the otherwise if majority still remains belief-blind ignorants.
This century is a starter of difficult time for the gun makers, private gun users and gun lovers.
It’s now will be wise to get used to popular Propaganda of time: Gun is criminal (Like last century’s item: Cigs).

Tim~
It was the war of our choice with CIA’s capo di tutti capi , George H. W. Bush initiating the terror bombing of Baghdad based upon C-SPAN’s false flag Iraqi Baby Incubator hoax engineered by California congressman Tom Lantos and his so-called Human Rights Caucus… and Brian Lamb knowingly allowed the gullible goyim to be duped by these falsehoods.
I hear that Bush aide sent to lure Saddam Hussein into the Kuwait trap, April Glaspie, is now living in South Africa. She is prohibited from publishing her memoirs and notes from that meeting.

The other witness to the “green Light”  Kuwait trap set by Bush and Glaspie was Tariq Aziz, who was sentenced to death. I hear that he is living in London.

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Iraq/April_Glaspie.html

Apart from the things other people have pointed out:
- Drones are our suicide bombers, which offended us so
- Blowing up people remotely breeds more enemies than it kills
- Nobody can list a single plot that has been genuinely foiled
- Any of us might be on a kill list, waiting for us to renew our passports

...militants are targeted for killing when they pose an imminent threat to the U.S. and capture isn’t feasible…

Seriously?  Hundreds and hundreds of people in destitute surroundings were all JUST ABOUT to do grievous harm to the United States?  Are we expecting them to walk across the Pacific Ocean, perhaps?

my favorite part is where she skipped the targeting and murder of US citizens via. drone strikes….cute, vapid aritcle…must be her first day.

What about the targeting of rescue workers and the targeting of funerals with drone strikes? Why is that missing from the article? This is missing a lot of key facts that show just how horrific the war crimes of the Obama administration actually are (and Bush for that matter as well)

What about the term “Double Tap”? Going back and striking the same target after medics, family members, bystanders or whomever are trying to pull out and help any survivors. Is this true? Is it not a War crime? Why are other countries and or the UN ... mmm looking away?

@Matt—You’re right, it’s an issue of official acknowledgement. In court cases the administration has argued that while it has discussed drones and targeted killings in general, those statements don’t constitute an official acknowledgement of particular strikes. Brennan’s speech also never mentions who is conducting strikes. You can read more in our article: http://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-govt-talks-about-a-drone-program-it-wont-acknowledge

@Shane and Rick B—There’s discussion of a U.N. investigation into alleged double-tap strikes under the civilian casualties question.

Wow, I am amazed at some of the comments in here criticizing the use of the drones.

Do you critics realize why we are in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan in the first place? Have you forgotten September 11, 2001 already which 3 THOUSAND innocent civilians were murdered by international terrorists?

The amount of terrorists or supposed terrorists killed by our drones is NOTHING compared to the THOUSANDS of civilians murdered on 9/11.

I don’t give a hoot if civilians are caught in the explosions of the drone bombs or not. They’re future terrorists removed from the terrorist watch list.

TRAITORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Colleen Adams

Jan. 16, 2013, 7:49 p.m.

Mark, why do you think 9/11 happened?  It happened because of the ill will toward the usa for involvement in other countries.  Your third paragraph would be laughable, except it isn’t funny.  The usa and its coalition of the willing is responsable for 100,000’s of thousands of deaths in the middle east and africa in the last 10 or so years.  Ill will toward the usa is growing and not only in the middle east.  You may have the acquiencence of our governments but I can assure you there is a growing revulsion towards the usa and its foreign policies amoung every day folk the world over, not only in those countries destroyed by you. 

The usa will not be able to complain or call fowl play when China rules the world.  Be careful what you teach your enemies.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Jan. 16, 2013, 9:04 p.m.

Mark, all the Islamic people do not want to blow us up. Only a small fraction of them do.

We are encouraging more and more bad guys by the drones blowing them up, sure, we would be ready to fight someone if they were doing it to us.

We are in Afghanistan to build a nation and put in a regime that is friendly to us, we are nation building. Just like the USSR did a few years ago. We condemned them for it, and financed huge amounts of funds and weapons to Osama Bin Ladin and his groups to run the USSR out.

Oh, and by the way, Afganistan has been having record opium crops since we have stabalized the country.

I have no idea why we are in Yemen except the strategic location, and we want the regime that is there to stay in power. Since they are friendly to us. We are conducting drone strikes in Yemen, I do know this.

Pakistan is in the nuclear club, so we want to stay friendly with them. So we do a little dirty work for them.

Why are we in Africa with drones? I don’t have any idea…yet. It will come out.

We went to Iraq to cause the death of over a million people and make Haliburton and Blackwater and contractors like them wealthy, as far as I can see. Oh, and don’t forget the largest embassy in the world is there that can hold over 15,000 people. Kind of sounds like a military base doesn’t it?

Indiscriminate killing of other people in other countries without a war being declared is against our own Constitution and against international laws.

Colladeral damage is a “justification” for killing of innocents. It is just another term to rename something that is totally WRONG and dressing it up to make it sound less WRONG.

Mark, how long do you think it will be before the drones that are flying over our country, keeping a watch over us are armed? I hope the thought conforts you, because it does not comfort me nor make me feel any safer at all, in fact it does the opposite.

Mark when you get to a certain age, you realize all life is sacred, you obviously have not reached this realization yet. The only reason to take someone else’s life is when you have no other choice.


Mark, just who do you think is a terrorist? Maybe I think you are.

#1 We are not at war with anyone. (Officially). #2 No one will ever forget 9/11, but do you really think the answer is to assinate and bomb people that may or may not be terrorists? With the “intelligence gathering” we have we can stop any threats to our soil. This is not happening on our soil, and it’s such a threat to the US our hailed leader would love to be in front of the cameras bragging about it. I think we just got our answer to the “hot miked” comments Obama had to be delivered to Putin. We’re doing Russia’s dirty work, and probably China’s too. Ever read other countries news about US?  Anybody see reports that Hilary’s “illness” was actually the result of aircraft crash with secret meeting with Prez in Iran and Navy seal that allegedly killed himself in Afghanistan was actually part of security detail and. died in crash. Russian Pravda reporting that. Talk about conspiracy theory! Won’t see that in MSM. Maybe ProPublica can check into that.

Yes, Mark.  We’re in Afghanistan because twenty Saudi Arabian men funded by Pakistan destroyed the World Trade Center with hijacked aircraft.  And it totally makes sense, too, because we found Osama bin Laden in Afgha…well, OK, Pakistan.

I guess all those countries look the same, right?  As long as any people die for a crime in enough volume, your thirst for revenge will be satisfied.

Drones are military execution by underground tribunal. Some think it a rational way to deal with militant Muslims, which are considered the enemy. They are an enemy, but created by our policies toward them. Barely discriminate killing is a lot easier than political change, hence the drone war. Is it ethical? I don’t think so.

Dementia Praecox

Jan. 22, 2013, 10:11 p.m.

Nine little children gathering firewood ARE NOT A MILITARY TARGET!

Neither is a wedding.

Nor a funeral.

Nor rescuers of victims of the US’ insane robotic war.

If you cannot understand these principles, LEAVE MY COUNTRY NOW.

I am a disabled vet who fought for MY and YOUR right to free speech, to report things as I find them. If you think murdering innocents is “Okay” so long as the phony War On Terror continues, YOU are NO AMERICAN.

Ok folks… let’s turn this around for a second. 

How do you suppose WE would like it if any other country decided to “selectively target” us in OUR homes and workplaces?

You know -  because one member of our family - or the guy working in the next cubicle - was suspected of being a possible threat to them at some point in the future?

It would be okay, right?  If all of them -  Mom, Dad, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, Grandma, Grandpa, and the new baby -  were killed or maimed for life when one suspected relative was “targeted” with artillery from THEIR drone in OUR skies? 

Or if our company was bombed out and destroyed with horrific casualties because of one or even three suspected terrorists working there? 

That’d be okay, right?

Because the other country would e-x-p-l-a-i-n it to us.  They would tell us:

“Well… it can generally be expected that ANYone in a building with one suspected bad guy is also probably doing bad things.  Sorry there were ‘losses’ but that’s the way it goes.” 

And we would just suck it up, right? 

Agree peacefully that this was indeed what needed to be done, right? 

You and I both know what we would ALL do and it wouldn’t be lie down and take it. 

We would be enraged beyond belief and fight back with everything we had in us—just as the people we do this to now are trying to do.

THIS is what our hard-earned tax dollars are going for. 

What our representatives voted for. 

What our leaders CHOOSE to do in our name.

And THIS is why all the drone activity specifics are under wraps in the name of security.  It is murder by any other name—and completely and utterly immoral. 

Yet somehow, we are able to find war-mongering justifications for it. 

With no thought at all about how we are affecting - destroying - the lives of people with hopes and dreams and families and loves just like us.

It is sad - and truly sickening - to see what our country, our leaders and our citizenry have become.

Drones a defense against terrorism? 

Decide for yourself who the terrorists are on this planet.

Yeah, Mark.  For me, this is the second time around trying to deal internally with diametrically opposing world views. Those being simplistic and black and white on the one hand and nuanced and cosmopolitan on the other and you surely don’t want to hear about it, you in your little world.  Even before I was assigned to the 4th Infantry in Vietnam I bothered to go to my local library and check out David Halberstam’s ‘The Making of a Quagmire. David had been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his in-country reporting for the N.Y. Times five years earlier. The blindness and group think of U.S. bureaucrats, politicians and a vast majority of those in the news and punditaucracy sector was starkly revealed in Halb’s book.

The situation that we are now in in the Mideast (as well as what is building in northern Africa) is the direct result of American citizens simply wanting to be distracted from reality outside of our borders, to be entertained.

Given that, the real powers that be have long had the NeoCons and the NeoLibs wrapped tightly around their moneyed fingers.

You are such a simpleton and a nation of simpletons can lead to danger.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Jan. 27, 2013, 12:03 a.m.

Mr. Crandell and Mr. Praecox, I wish to thank you for your service to our country.

I also want to thank you for being true Patriots. By your posts we can see that you cherish this nation and our freedoms, but are totally dissatisfied with our governement’s actions.

Smart Warfare, better than troops on the Ground..

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Jan. 28, 2013, 7:56 p.m.

Rixar13, maybe we will get to see how well you like it when they are doing drone strikes on our population here.

Just hope for the best: A group of real wise leaders imerge to re-shape the the easy old model of global politics.
They have actually to be absolutely honest and have to have foreseeing-ability to picture in their minds now what the West, especially the Notrh-America (Americanda?)‘s economy shall look like at the end of this century and beyond.
If their focus and calculations are for the next 4 or 8 years with their personal security and own monetary interests included, then, “Killer minded, super wealthy, religious type belief-blind thugs” will reposses soon the business of ‘outdated styled scare tactics in geo-politics with guns, bombs, nukes, high-tech digital comm. manipulation (latest addition).
We should trust in both the ‘Religion-less Creator’ and ‘Truly good humans’ ability’.

Comparing weapons?
All types of weapons with kill! None of them are nice.
I am retired veteran; the understanding is protecting our nation.
I will give my life to protect our nation.
You have better idea to protect our nation with peace.
I am 100% with you.
The new groups against us today don’t care about us or themselves, and they are fearless because they are true believers.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Jan. 30, 2013, 10:26 p.m.

Peter, so you think a handful of people in our government need to have a secret kill list, make themselves judge, jury and executioner?

The new groups against us today don’t care about us or themselves, and they are fearless because they are true believers.

John Henry Bicycle Lucas, I don’t like it when any government acts as judge, jury and executioner.
Read your human history we have done this for years.

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”
~Plato

I know my government is not always true but this is only place on earth where we had learned our mistakes. We are having free open debates. All Worlds’ Religions live here. People here are mostly good, cohesive, and secure. United States Constitution is my dream.

James M. Fitzsimmons

Jan. 31, 2013, 10:05 a.m.

The drone campaign is probably justified and it reflects the Obama administration’s agreement with the Bush administration that our criminal justice system alone cannot deter the existential threat of terrorism. Obama’s strategy is “cleaner” however since no prisoners are taken therefore no GITMO and related public relations problems. When a Fort Hood or Benghazi event happens, the Obama administration simply describes them as “workplace violence” or a “response” to an inflammatory video. “What difference does it make…” The mainstream media is complicit with Orwellian government newspeak and actions when their heroes are in power.

James M. Fitzsimmons you are mostly accurate and also Orwellian government in your comment.
What would be an excellent solution to this problem?

John Henry Bicycle Lucas

Jan. 31, 2013, 8:16 p.m.

Repeal the Patriot Act, repeal the NDAA act and provisions. Repeal all laws that deprive us of the rights assured of us by the Bill of Rights.

John I do agree to your comment, but I was in the service before the Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (refer to Title X; Subtitle D sub-sections 1021 and 1022 Detention without Trial). I was told your rights can be taken away at any time they believe to be involved any threat to National Security. They would send them off to hostile countries and may be held indefinitely. The government was secretly doing detention without trial for years. History demonstrated during WWII American/Japanese and Native Americans were detaining without trial. To me it only pieces of paper informing the public it alright to do that now because it’s legal.  United States Constitution is still my dream.

James M. Fitzsimmons

Feb. 1, 2013, 11:51 a.m.

Peter, continue to encourage/demand ProPublica and other media to eschew ideological slant and to report the facts. “Analysis” of the facts should be on the op-ed pages and clearly labeled and with the bio of the writer provided. Ad hominem attacks need to be discouraged and simplistic foolishness like “Republicans are bad and Democrats are good” should be scorned by conscientious citizens. Both political parties are often suspect in their motivations. Seems to me that the more scrupulously objective the reporting, the more likely that our politicians will be forced to do what is best for the country.

James, true I voted for both parties and follow them for years. I would never blame them. I want to tell the truth. In a free open debate an article make me ask questions, I conduct research, analyze my finding and draw a conclusion. History is filled with data but you’re all my teachers what better place to learn. I love this country and served over 20 years. United States Constitution gives us freedoms, but how can we protect? “Drones aren’t the elite weapon”. Government stands for to me “We the People of United States”.

Headline-Drone strike in Los Angeles, California. Seven people killed. Us Gov says it’s not one of theirs!————Three days later: Headline-Drone strike last week in Calif. from Canada. From “unidentified, reliable” source, Canadian gov personell admit Drone strike in LA. Says terrorist was at local restaurant. Because they are not allowed to arrest in the USA and the suspected terrorists were making plans to blow up the latest McDonalds in Toronto, the Canadian government used a drone to effectively kill the suspected terrorist. The other six people were there also, sitting at different tables, but were assumed to be in on the plot. From the Associated press.

???? Fictions?
What’s more the difference between negative thuughts and neg. reality afterwards!

What I find amazing is the amount of people changing sides all of a sudden. The truth is civilians die in any war.  It’s unfortunate, but it is the ugly truth. Drone strikes, believe it or not, are a lot more organized and clean than using tanks, fighter planes, and US soldiers.

For starters, we are not risking American troops lives. Secondly, the precision on the drones are astounding compared to a bomber.  We killed 1000s of people in the Japanese bombings. This is a lot better alternative.

The only real way to avoid civilian deaths is to stop war altogether.  I am 100% for this but we can’t do it alone. As far as this article is concerned, the thought that drones increase anti-sentiment is drastically vague. Anti American sentiment has been rising for years, even if we place soldiers in these countries, the citizens won’t like it.

And the person that stated they will never support our troops because of Obama is simply ridiculous. You are no different from the people who say they hate the police because of an occasional wrong arrest or innocent civilian Hurt or killed. Soldiers follow orders, so dislike the president all you want, but respect the men that do so much more to protect us than what we read about in the media. The media reports the ugly because it get ratings.  Go spend a day with some troops (I have) and hear some of the great stories they have that most Americans don’t know! How they risk their lives sometime to protect civilians from other countries, or who have been severely injured for stopping terrorist bombings that were targeted at innocent civilians.  These brave young men and women protect our values and our countries in ways you apparently don’t understand or appreciate. It’s a reason why we have been allowed to be so fat and happy and live without the constant threat of a bombing or attack, it’s because of them. If drones help protect these brave Americans and reduce the number of civilian casualties (reduce does not equal eliminate) then I support it.

Look through history, and you will understand that war has evolved and is not as gruesome and devastating as it once was. And as I said before, NO war is the ONLY way to prevent civilian deaths, period. Any other rational is simply delusional BS.

Wise thoughts Mr. Jimi!

As long as their hell bent on attacking American targets and killing innocent Americans,then they should expect us to do the same,only this time were going after the specific people who threaten American.Just like the 3000 plus innocent Americans that were killed on 9/11,they too should expect some innocent people to loose their live’s.Stop the threats,the planning,targeting of America and her allies,the drone strikes will stop.I’m against violence,but should we stand by while they build training camps,build weapons,train Jihads to kill Americans and her allies ?Would you rather sit back and fight them here or wait for the next strike against us?Do you really think they will just go away?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
The Drone War

The Drone War

ProPublica is covering the U.S.' expanding – and often secret – targeted killing program.

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