(Banner image above lifted from artwork "American Legacy" courtesy of Steve Fryburg)
- Since the U.S. started drone attacks in Afghanistan in 2001, U.S. weaponized drones have, as of January 1, 2017, reportedly killed at least 7,511 people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, according to statistics supplied to Knowdrones.com by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ).
This is a gross underestimate of U.S. drone killings because the BIJ only began counting drone deaths in Afghanistan in 2015. There are also no comprehensive tallies of drone killings in Iraq, Syria or Libya, nations where the U.S. has been conducting extensive drone attack operations. U.S. drones have also attacked in the Philippines.
- All of these killings violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international human rights treaty that the U.S. ratified in 1992, as well as the international laws of war. This is because none of those killed were tried in a court of law or determined to be “combatants” by a neutral tribunal, and all killings were based upon gross violations of the privacy of those living in sovereign nations.
-The President, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Secretary of the Air Force and other military leaders directly involved in the U.S. drone program are guilty of war crimes under International Criminal and Humanitarian Law and should be subject to prosecution.
- Frequently, if not most often, those who are killed are not the intended targets. For example, in 2014, the human rights law firm, Reprieve, released a study, reported in The Guardian, that found that U.S. drone attacks targeting 41 suspects in Pakistan and Yemen in actuality resulted in the deaths of 1,147 people, including women and children. US Drone Strikes – The Facts On The Ground
- Drone attacks primarily involve Hellfire missiles, designed to destroy tanks, other armored vehicles and buildings. When striking humans in the open, as is common, these missiles pulverize the bodies of their victims and gravely wound others. There is no way an attack with these weapons can be “precise,” as the U.S. government claims; the U.S. military has determined that the safe distance from the point of impact of a Hellfire missile is no less than 120 yards, the length of a football field including the end zones. The use of the Hellfire for targeting individuals, even if such targeting were legal, would be a war crime given the weapon’s indiscriminate destruction.
- KnowDrones estimates that as many as 750,000 people, at a minimum, have been killed, wounded or traumatized by U.S. killer drones around the world since the U.S. began using weaponized drones in 2001 in Afghanistan.
- Those killed, wounded and terrorized by U.S. drones are almost exclusively poor people of color and of the Muslim faith--the usual victims of racism, classism, and Islamophobia in the U.S. That explains, in part, the high degree of complacency among U.S. residents towards the drone war and its victims.
- U.S. drone attacks are part of larger U.S. military actions intended to facilitate U.S.-based corporations’ political and economic dominance in nations rich in natural resources..
- The U.S. Air Force in 2016-17 will carry out missions that keep at least 240 killer drones in the air over the course of a 24-hour period. The Pentagon plans to increase this number to at least 360 by 2019, indicating that there are plans for a further increase in drone attacks and the expansion of U.S. wars in general. The U.S. Army carries out killer drone missions in support of deployed units. Drones deployed by the Navy and Marine Corps are devoted to surveillance and, also providing support for killer drone missions.
- The Air Force and other military services have been under great pressure from Pentagon leadership, and apparently the President, to increase numbers of killer drone missions. This has lead to inadequate training, overwork and stress for drone operators, according to reports by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The Air Force is hiring private contractors to undertake drone surveillance, and, possibly, attack missions because of 500-person shortfall of drone operators; U.S. drone operators currently number about 1,350.
- Drone technology has placed many drone operators in a unique situation of emotional contradiction that has never been experienced by people involved in combat before. Most operators live at home with their families in what is intended to be a nurturing, life-giving and affirming culture while, at the same time, their work days consist exclusively of stalking and killing human beings in a war culture focused on death-dealing.
- A significant number of drone operators are suffering from PTSD and moral injury, according to drone whistleblowers and others. There is no evidence that the Pentagon is acknowledging the extent of these problems or is willing to consider whether these conditions are inevitable for people involved in relentless stalking and killing, and whether this inevitability means that the killer drone program should be scrapped.
( The emotional contradiction faced by drone operators raises the question of whether and to what degree U.S. society in general can bear the contradiction of being at once nurturing and at the same time a war culture. This raises the question of whether leaders wishing to conduct continuing imperial wars find it necessary to try to remold U.S. culture into a permanent war culture.)
- The stress and inadequate training of drone operators inevitably leads to errors that are very likely resulting in the greater killing of people in drone surveillance and attack zones.
- If judged against the goals of reducing “terrorist” attacks and the spread of armed conflict, the U.S. drone war program must be judged a complete failure.
- Surveillance and weaponized drone production and use are surging globally, warranting an international ban on military and police drone surveillance and the production of weaponized drones. For example, thirty-two different drone types are being used in the Iraq and Syria wars, including killer drones produced in the U.S., China, Iran and Turkey. Only an international ban can stop a global drone-manufacturing race.