By the Numbers: US Drone Strikes on Pakistan “Illegal”

The Guardian reports that Ben Emmerson, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, says that the Pakistani government has given no tacit consent to US drone strikes according to a search of government records. Therefore, he concludes, the strikes are likely illegal in international law.

US drone strikes according to Pakistan government statistics:

Number of US drone strikes on Pakistan’s tribal belt since 2004: 330

Congressional authorizations for attack on Pakistan: 0

Number of people killed by the strikes: 2,200

Average number of people killed per strike: 6.6

Number of people wounded by the strikes: 600

Average number of people wounded per strike: 1.8

Number of known non-combatant civilians killed: 400

Further number of suspected non-combatant civilians killed: 200

Average number of innocent civilians likely killed by each strike: 1.8

Percentage of those killed that are likely innocent civilians: 27


17 Responses

  1. Mr. Emmerson’s visit to Pakistan and his report on the drone strikes (and whether or not the Pakistanis have given their “consent”) brings out two interesting issues.

    First, Mr. Emmerson admits that he did not meet with key decision-makers in the drone program over the years: the Pakistani military and the InterServices Intelligence Agency (ISI). He met only with civilians in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Defense, and it is unclear if he met with higher level officials in those ministries. To base one’s conclusion that the Pakistanis have not given their “consent” to the drone strikes over the years without talking to high level officials in the military and ISI is to either exhibit a high level of naivete or place a premium on wishful thinking over experience.

    Second, his research found that the Taliban and other militants bear a significant onus for civilian deaths. His report states that Taliban and other militants demand food and shelter from families against their will, and militants who know they are being hunted park their cars next to homes of innocent civilians. According to Emmerson, both of these actions on the part of the Taliban and militants have resulted in strikes inadvertently killing innocent civilians.

    • And so we just jump right past the whole supposed justification for this neo-exercise, whether those “Taliban,” that convenient if obfuscatory collective noun, constitute any kind of threat to the nation (ours, that is) or “US interests” other than troops and “civilians” doing “government work” for “us” in the murky depths of the Game where Spies are largely indistiguishable from Spies (how about that Col. (ret) david Steele and his private fun, hey? link to ), worthy of a drone program that sure seems to have flown high, right over the Constitution, and a lot of people’s ideas of “international order.”

      But then the Game we are supposed to perceive and believe in sure seems, if you follow the money, not to be the actual Game that counts, in the end, at all…

      Yeah, I know — AUMF and all that crap. Keep on with the serial impeachment in support of the Whoever Is In Charge — I see Joe weighs in on this one too — “the most naive investigator ever…”

      • It is absolutely amazing how much Joe and I, both separately and together, command your attention, Mr. McPhee. Never in my life have I had someone hanging on my every word as you do. Is this a result of having too much time on your hands?

    • Mr. Emerson met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Secretary. Pakistan has made public statements at the UN calling for an end to the drone strikes. President Zadari has called for an end to the drone strikes. Both houses of Pakistan’s parliament have passed resolutions calling for an end to the use of drones. Is the UN investigator charged with upholding international law supposed to ignore these realities?

      • “Is the UN investigator charged with upholding international law supposed to ignore these realities?”

        The reality he ignored and either deliberately or inadvertently sidestepped, is that the highest levels within the Pakistani military and ISI are the decision-makers in these matters. The normal organs of government in Pakistan, such as the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Defense, make official statements for public consumption but are not making policy. And neither Emmerson nor you know what even they are saying to the US behind closed doors.

      • “ignore these realities”? Of course he is supposed to ignore them. We have to maintain the fictions that Bill in particular, seconded by Joe, both of whom find it for some reason important to use the “”-selections of text and serial efforts to impeach anyone who dents the armor of arrogance that shields our Serious People from any consequences, profess and support, with varying degrees of subtlety in their pitches. Because after all, “AUMF!” And (undefined) “National Interests!”

        • We should take the Pakistani Foreign Ministry at face value, because you hate it when people reference the AUMF, despite nobody referencing the AUMF.

          Have I got that about right?

      • The problem isn’t that Emmerson considered the public statements from the Pakistani foreign service. The problem is that that evidence is all he considered, when there is very obviously more going on.

        If someone investigating the legality of drone strikes issued a statement about their legality based entirely on the public statements of the United States Department of State, would you be asking why people have a problem with his methods?

  2. It’s gonna take some real persuasion, like a feature-length documentary, to get me to believe that even 10% of those killed are “combatants.”
    If the source for that information is the US military, try again.

    Also, I believe that those strikes are concentrated in just a handful of villages. I believe that over 100 strikes were in Miran Shah alone.
    Isn’t that where American POW Bowe Bergdahl is thought to be held ?

  3. Of those 1,800-odd “people” killed, how many of them, even by the wildest stretch of Threatmongering imaginatuitation, posed any kind of actual danger, imminent or remote, to “US interests?” Oh yeah, OBL was one of them, right? and if “we” don’t find, fix and kill every one of “them,” whoever they are, there might be another OBL among them, right? Maybe something like this? link to

    At what point does this idiocy, this mythically “regulated” outsourcing of assassination and murder, completely and finally get to the point of failing even General Dreedle’s and Doc Panetta’s and now Ex-Medaled Kerry’s JeebusEffingChrahst Laugh Test?

  4. Is this guy the most naive investigator on the face of the earth, or is he just a hack?

    Lessee, we have Pakistan continuing to host drone bases years after they first proclaimed themselves to be shocked, shocked to discover that the US was carrying out drone strikes, so what’s the best way to get to the bottom of this mystery?

    I know, let’s the Pakistani government to make an official statement on the record. Case closed!

  5. Congressional authorizations for attack on Pakistan: 0

    Congressional authorizations for attacks on al Qaeda and their allies: 1.

    • Cogressional authorizations for full-blown in-retrospect-and-also-prospectively-stupid War, or whatever it was, on Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, etc.: 1

      “If someone investigating the legality of drone strikes issued a statement about their legality based entirely on the public statements of the United States Department of State, would you be asking why people have a problem with his methods?” Maybe I would, if I was a subtle person and the idea was to keep the Fog of War wrapped tightly around the eyes of the people who pay the price of nominal “legal” cover, especially if I could get away with a nice double standard when it comes to US “wars of choice” based on false claims of WMD and Saddam-hand-in-glove-with-bin-Ladin.

      OOOOhh, look at the shiny AUMFobject! And REALpolitics says that it’s not what the nominal organs of government, the ones who sit in the UN, have to say, it’s what the Gamers get to infer from the behavior of all or some part of the sneaky, violent, corrupt sh_ts that do all the other stuff that we are not supposed to pay any attention to, just pay for…

      Hmmm. ISI jump-starts and supports the pseudo-entity called Taliban. Some part of Taliban supposedly hides bin Ladin. The logic is irrefutable that ISI should be attacked, invaded, Helfire-droned under the claimed logic of the AUMF (al Quaeda and its “allies,” right?) Oh, that’s right — they got nukes, don’t they? And they are as crazy as we are. Once you wallow in the relativism, it’s impossible to do anything decent or to get clean ever again…

  6. Big Freedom Bucks in Drones, Missiles, Control Equipment
    and Software, very little for the operators.
    If no enemy, no Bucks.

    • Yes, it is interesting to see which defense contractors are supplying drone technology and how much revenue is being realized from the drone program from sales to the U.S. government.

Comments are closed.