Journalism in the Public Interest

Obama Administration’s Drone Death Figures Don’t Add Up

Administration officials often claim few or no civilian deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan, but are their own accounts consistent?

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June 21, 2012, 12:11 a.m.

There’s a shock.  You mean people who lie and deceive for a living aren’t honest about the number of innocents they slaughter?  Where’d I put my damn ‘shocked face’?  :-O

David Hutchinson

June 21, 2012, 6:08 a.m.

We were attacked on 9/11 by the equivalent of 3 huge drones. Jet liners filled with explosive jet fuel qualifies as a flying bomb. We lost a measly 3000 lives meanwhile how many people who don’t want to cooperate with the world for order and peace have died for their cause or just not getting out of the way. 500,000 or so collateral damage on both sides. Being on the right side matters and if folks are to beholden to twisted religious views then they will meet their Maker sooner than later. Why should the world be held hostage by tiny no nothing countries. Colonise I say.

Budd Weiser

June 21, 2012, 2:59 p.m.

Sure, the figures don’t add up because in Obomber’s world 2+2=5.

Getit Qwik

June 22, 2012, 8:55 a.m.

In reponse to carlb….“War is Hell”,  you would think a former Navy Missile tech could spell missile.  Furthermore in your comment it is there not their and discriminate not descrimant.  You should use some punctuation in your sentence structure and a few apostrophes where needed would not hurt.  Examples are what’s worse not whats worse, it’s not its and coward’s not cowards.  Also the word an instead of a enemy would be the proper word in that sentence.  Lastly, it would be our Congress instead of or congress.  Other than that, your statements are 100% on the money.  Except I don’t care who wins in 2012 they are all “screwed up”.
If we don’t demand of our REPRESENTATIVES and SENATORS that they represent the United States not their wallets, then we all lose.


June 22, 2012, 9:49 a.m.

I thought I left a comment yesterday, but it apparently didn’t survive our network glitch.

Anyway, I’ve known a fair number of military folks, and their stories tell me that it’s not a religious issue.  Ten years ago, our people were genuinely welcomed with open arms as Bush claimed we would be.  Ten years later, everyone’s a terrorist out to kill us.

That’s not religion, at least not at its cause.  It’s that the “unwashed masses” there aren’t idiots.  They see that we’ve destroyed their economies and left nothing but drugs and murder.  They see that we’ve disassembled their governments and—at best—replaced it with a majority regime rather than a consensus peace, leading them to the relative security of militants.  We’ve destroyed much of their past (like the Iraqi archaeological site we leveled for a landing strip) and limited hopes for the future, driving them to religion.

I’m sure they can’t help notice what I’ve noticed:  It took us ten years to find a six-foot-tall Arab man on dialysis in a part of the world where electrical power is hard to come by.  We also found him (and sourced the 2001 terrorists) in allied countries that we treat as allies.

David, to turn your theory around, eleven years ago, some people decided to give the United States a bloody nose to give us a political ultimatum to leave their part of the world—their people—alone.  Did we, as you expect the Arabs to do, think that maybe they had a point and we should maybe not blindly support Israel or Turkey?  Of course not.  Instead of that, we (despite some of our vocal resistance) gave up many of our civil liberties to wage war.

Likewise, every death (civilian moreso than militant) prolongs the war, rather than shortens it.  If your teenage neighbor was beheaded by an Arab because he “might be” an invading soldier, I’m betting you wouldn’t seek him out to give him the names and addresses of actual soldiers living in your neighborhood to make him stop.  It’s been over a decade, and we still wave the banner of three thousand dead, after all, to justify half a million deaths and probably millions of lost refugees.

Don’t expect the Afghanis (or Iraqis, or anybody else in the Middle East) to do any different.  People are pretty much the same everywhere you go, as the Arab Spring illustrates.

Normal people (those not in power, who by definition want more power) want peace and freedom, and want the best the world has to offer, provided some jackass isn’t trying to blow them up “just in case” and calling their friends and family “collateral damage.”

Notice where the Arab Spring hasn’t come to town, where people haven’t expressed a strong interest in throwing off the traditions that aren’t helping them.  It’s where we have boots on the ground and planes in the sky, making their lives more miserable than the most medieval church.

What we should have done ten years ago was engage the civilians.  Rather than ship in water and food (tainted, by the way—thanks, Halliburton!) for the soldiers, we could have insisted they eat like and with locals.

We could have listened to their problems and got them talking.  One serious problem I saw happen in Iraq was the Kurd problem.  A major Iraq War goal was to prevent the Kurdish genocide.  Unfortunately, while we eliminated Saddam Hussein (a good thing), we left the Kurds to the local Turks, who were just as happy to kill them.  That didn’t exactly “win the hearts and minds” over there.

Today, I don’t know what the solution is, because Bush and Obama have dug the hole pretty deep.  But the drones aren’t helping, the way we’re using them.

The best thing we can do is help them rebuild despite the danger to our people and force the civilian leaders to work together to better their people’s lives.  No more forcing a vote (which, rather than building consensus and cooperation, creates an angry losing faction), and no more collateral damage or classifying deaths as military just because it’s not entirely impossible.

If we’re not going to do that, if we’re not going to show that our side is morally better (and safer!) than the terrorists’—which they used to believe—then we’re just giving the nutcases a better argument to recruit people.  And when that’s the case, we’d probably be better off nuking the entire area into a sheet of glass, rather than wasting time pissing off and killing each person individually.


June 24, 2012, 2:17 a.m.

Ever what the civilian count seems low compared to the effectiveness of the drones. One civilian is to many , but when terrorists hide behind civilians that is unfortunately what’s going to happen. As far as the lies go , that’s some people in the administration NOT the administration itself. Those people may or may not believe what they are saying. All in all I very much approve of the drone strikes. “Republicans stand for raw, unbridled evil and greed and ignorance smothered in balloons and ribbons.”  Frank Zappa great accurate quote , sure he would add the Tea Party now.

Scott Marsh

June 25, 2012, 2:11 p.m.

Irony is dead.  It serves neither comedy nor communication.  Some of you may have good brains, but I’ll never know it because I tire of your slick monikers and your flimsy attempts to be witty.  Perhaps if I knew you personally, I would get a belly laugh once in a while from your sarcastic remarks, but in a room full of strangers, you’re just making asses of yourselves.  Say what you mean, simply and frankly, and try not to presume so much.  Sheesh!

Anne Marie Martinez

June 25, 2012, 3:57 p.m.

I have read many of these comments. What some have said is very scary.
So you would want Romney in stead of Obama?  That is your choice….and if you do in fact vote for Romney and he wins are you ready to lose all you have? Unless you are part of the 1% because they are the only ones who will survive….an Romney rule


June 25, 2012, 9:16 p.m.

The Drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan are practice runs. They are honing their skills for precise, artful attacks on U.S. sovereigns.


June 25, 2012, 9:44 p.m.

As most of us know, Islam is not a monolith…Shi’a, Sunny, others…sects within sects…factions, alliances, arrangements…I suspect that Mr. Obama is allied with one faction or another and that he is using U.S. Assets to advance the cause of his allies…I can’t prove any involvement by Mr. Obama in the struggles within Islam but his actions do seem to more benefit our enemies than the U.S.—at least to me.
So what I suspect is that Mr. Obama’s allies have ‘issues’ with some or all of the people now on the kill list…I think it is possible that Mr. Obama kills these people at his allies’ behest.
Again: this is all speculation…I can’t even begin to prove any of it…but the headline on the news story pretty much sums up the situation—something doesn’t add up—especially if one applies rule or law, Western thinking kind of logic to these events.

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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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