Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones

The US government continues to rain drones down on the tribal belt of Pakistan. While the Washington narrative is that these drones are precision machines that only kill terrorists, this story is not true.

The drone program is classified, and so it cannot be publicly debated. It cannot even be acknowledged by President Obama and his cabinet members. Drones are operated by civilians and sometimes by contractors. That is, we are subcontracting assassination.

Americans who were upset that the president did not seek congressional authorization for the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya are apparently all right with his administration bombing Pakistan without explicit authorization (the 2001 one authorizes action against perpetrators of 9/11, not their children.). The Obama administration has declared that no judges or judicial process need be involved in just blowing away people, even American citizens.

Of the some 3000 persons killed by US drones, something like 600 have been innocent noncombatant bystanders, and of these 176 were children. In some instances the US drone operators have struck at a target, then waited for rescuers to come and struck again, which would be a war crime. Obviously, children may run in panic to the side of an injured parent, so they could get hit by the indiscriminate second strike.

We don’t know the exact circumstances of the children’s deaths because the US government won’t talk about them, indeed, denies it all.

Someone actually wrote me chiding me that the Newtown children were “not in a war zone!” Americans seem not to understand that neither is Waziristan a “war zone.” No war has been declared there, no fronts exist, no calls for evacuation of civilians from their villages have been made. They’re just living their lives, working farms and going to school. They are not Arabs, and most are not Taliban. True, some sketchy Egyptians or Libyans occasionally show up and rent out a spare room. So occasionally an American drone appears out of nowhere and blows them away.

Robert Greenwald of the Brave New Foundation explains further: (warning: graphic and not for the squeamish):

24 Responses

  1. It’s an excellent reminder Dr. Cole. Thanks, it takes courage to mention the obvious.
    The US’s minds have become dull. They do not seem to be able to see the similarities between the Connecticut’s shooting at defenseless targets and the USA (and it’s “ally”) doing the same thing around the world. Since there are so many people asking and speculating on the “Why”, why not to include that as a possible factor, if not the cause, of the Connecticut shooting?

  2. Thank you for bringing this issue into focus. Where is the outrage for the “others”. We easily dismiss our role in the shattering of lives and other cultures.

  3. And this cannot get even one percent of the TV airtime which was devoted in one day to talking heads blathering about the latest shooting. Our country’s (for that matter, not just America’s, as this applies to other English-language media too) news media professionals have a great deal to answer for.

    How do they justify it to themselves?

    • The lack of mainstream media coverage of drones is critical as it can leave many American surprised and angry–and thus willing to support neocon-type legislative and military responses–when an anti-American terrorist act occurs. According to a September 2012 report by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law, “publicly available evidence that [drone] strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. 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%. Furthermore, 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.’” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  4. It is terrible.

    I would also sue the Taliban in court for taking refuge in area schools like in Miran Shah.

    Please give me some context also; carpet-bombing in Cambodia this is not. But explain the dilemma: the enemy hides in mosques and schools – what do you do?

    Prof Cole, I don’t want to irritate you. I like to read contacts with different views and hopefully we can disagree on some topics. Thanks for letting me learn with you, T.

    • First of all, how is the “enemy” designated and who sentences an individual to death by drone abroad?

      There is no evidence of drones hitting schools or mosques or of the mainly Arab drone targets hiding out in them.

      Mostly, a Muslim activist from the Arab world shows up among these rural Pashtuns and rents a guest annex or room at their house, which is what is hit, producing the civilian non-combatant deaths.

      • Im personily witness of the drone strikes which not only kills,taliban but also our own elders/leaders.kids,women..personaliy seen more than 8 attacks on my village and wich each attack took civilains and kids lives too..there was a Jirga of our elders regarding insergency Hells fire took the lives of more than 45 members which all were from our own locality..they were not Al Quida. Nor taliban but who cares! Thise who raising fingers on us,they dont know which side on the mape pakistan is located,eating pork and taking wine with the colourful lives of clubs how they talk on this subject if dont know the ABC on the subject

  5. My questions are these:

    1. How much of this is within the President’s control? Is it possible that he needs to succumb to other powerful groups within the government/military complex?

    2. What specifically makes these areas more troublesome than, say, something like Mexico, where drug wars could also affect the American people dramatically?


    • Answers:#1 yes; # 2 the USA portraits itself as the world’s poster nation.

  6. just to say thank you too to TonyFrame…..gracious questioning. I look forward to reading the answer too!

  7. Absolutely, Juan. It’s one of the first things I thought about: where was the agony for those kids? Nowhere around here. (This is not meant to mitigate or lessen the tragedy of Newtown, but we must remember it in the context of our actions as a nation–OUR actions, we elect these guys).

  8. See this Hawaiian web-site for similar thoughts.

    This web-site also asks about the USA storing DEPLETED URANIUM in Hawaii:

    On Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a meeting with the U.S. Army about whether to grant the Army a “License to Possess” Depleted uranium (DU) in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks on Oahu and the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on Hawaii island. The meeting, instead of being held in Hawaii, was held in Maryland. The public could listen by phone to the 2 and 1/2 hour meeting and ask questions for 1/2 hour after the meeting ended. While no formal decision was made, the writing is on the wall. A license will be granted to the Army. The mongoose, once again, will be put in charge of guarding the hen house.

  9. PANJWAI, Afghanistan — Stalking from home to home, a United States Army sergeant methodically killed at least 16 civilians, 9 of them children, in a rural stretch of southern Afghanistan early on Sunday, igniting fears of a new wave of anti-American hostility, Afghan and American officials said.

    link to nytimes.com

    The story above seems much closer than the drone attacks which sometimes take children’s life among others.

    Thanks Juan.

  10. There is no doubt that the military industrial complex in the USA has taken over, much as Eisenhower said it would. If this were just about human lives, then, we should talk about all the people who are killed in these conflicts, not just the children. And while the violent death of any innocent person is tragic, the realities of Newtown CT and Pakistan are very, very different. I am unconvinced, by your argument, that places where drones hit are not war zones. It seems that you are speaking of an old-school war. Remember, the new war, the terrorist war, looks quite normal on the surface.

    It is wrong to say that the grieving for the kids in CT is dependent upon grieving for all kids everywhere. Unless you’re also willing to stick up for the other kids, one every 3 hours, that gets blown away mostly in the poor neighborhoods of the United States. Unless you’re willing to report on girls enslaved around the world. Unless…and the list goes on. There is no duality here.

  11. The Military Times on Friday, December 14, 2012 published an Associated Press article by Frederick Frommmer “U.S.: Toss lawsuit Over al-Awlaki’s Death”.

    The account covers a federal suit filed by the ACLU and Center For Constitutional Rights on behalf of relatives of Anwar a-Awlaki and Samir Khan over their deaths in a drone strike.

    The Justice Department is seeking dismissal on the grounds that the decision of the Executive Branch to kill an alleged “imminent threat” is barred under the “political question” defense. In other words, the separation of powers constitutional doctrine forbids judicial review of the executive decision to kill someone in a drone strike without regard to how incompetently the President, Defense Department, or CIA may draw up the rules or implement them in this assassination program.

    I am waiting for someone to raise an Equal Protection Clause argument under the Fourteenth Amendment that the drone strikes almost exclusively target Muslims. Other non-Muslim or non-Asian entities designated as terrorist organizations by the State Department have not been the subject of drone attacks. Would the Obama administration ever consider a European terror organization member as a drone target?

  12. Another hideous irony – the Taliban, too, think they have the right to bear arms to resist government tyranny.

    • Ah, but we lump all those disparate people together under that convenient and misleading label, and then, as Bill puts it, “legally” categorize them as “Unlawful Enema Combatants,” and keep buying Hellfires to replenish the arsenal used to blow them up, along with anyone “guilty by proximity,” as in “within the lethal range of the detonation.”

      Because, after all, who knows what those Evil Muslims might have been plotting that would be a Threat to “our” undefined and apparently undefinable “US interests,” y’know? And besides, the “Taliban” obviously have nothing in common with our Continental Freedom Fighters of 1776, or of course those same people when Reagan told us they were moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers in their struggle against that other Evil Empire that we used to confront (and have now come to look more and more like) just a decade or two ago.

      Makes you just Proud to be a U.S.-an, don’t it? “We’re Number One! We’re Number One!”

  13. Thanks for this, Dr. Cole. It’s an important reminder that all children are our children. When the adults begin to act like adults and parents to all, this will decrease. It is hard not to see the violent out-of-control nature of the U.S. destroying us internally and destroying the world externally. It’s more complex than this, but sometimes the simple view has truth.

  14. In the middle of President Obama’s eloquent and moving speech, I started to wonder whether the shootings in Connecticut would have any influence on his Tuesday meeting to draw up the kill list for the week.

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