Here’s How Many Civilians Have Been Killed In Drone Strikes On Obama’s Watch

As his second term comes to a close, the Obama administration announced Friday that 64 to 116 civilians have been killed in drone attacks since he took office. The strikes all took place in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa, and the civilian casualties weren’t previously released. It was a show of transparency from the administration, but some advocates feel like things are still off.

Activists say that just since 2009, 100 civilians have been inadvertently killed by 500 drone strikes, according to PBS Newshour. If that’s true, the administration’s numbers are way off. But they come as part of an executive order issued Friday in which the Obama administration pinky swears to take better care of civilians when launching drone attacks all across the world. The drone strikes have been, seemingly, effective. And it’s much better than deploying manpower to far away places, but Obama’s drone use has been extensive and they are not perfect. Drones are specific, but even targeted killings can get messy. The executive order today is supposed to change that.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a briefing Friday, “The president believes our counterterrorism strategy is more effective and has more credibility when we’re as transparent as possible. There are obviously limitations to transparency when it comes to matters as sensitive as this.”

While national security is of course sensitive, reporting something like civilian deaths from the drones we use is sort os just good practice. And not to get all patriotic on everyone, but this is America — we should lead by example when it comes to those sorts of things. Like, yes, we wage war with drones we man from some random ass place, but we disclose how and why we did it and what happened afterwards.

According to independent organizations, we are not doing that, at all. London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that 492 to 1,100 civilians have been killed since 2002 in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. That is definitely not 64 to 116. The executive director of Center for Civilians in Conflict in Washington, Federico Borello, has been working on this for years and is pleased with the new executive order. Borello said in a statement Thursday that civilian protections when it comes to drone is “in the heart of military planning.” He added that he hadn’t seen the final draft of the order, but that his group would petition Congress to make it into a law so that other presidents couldn’t toss it out once they’re in office.

In fact, if that’s what we’re doing, we can deal with the calculations later. Obama should sign as many executive orders as he can before he has to give away the Oval Office, because who knows what the next guy (or gal) will do.

Tags: drones, obama