The U.S. policy for waging the War On Terror is simple: Find al Qaeda terrorists and kill them. To do this, unmanned combat air systems, commonly known as drones, have become the weapon of choice. To date, the independent Bureau of Investigative Journalism (UK), reports drones have killed 2,629-3,461 in Pakistan, including 475-891 civilians; 374-1,112 in Yemen, including 72-178 civilians and 58-170 in Somalia, including 11-57 civilians.
By contrast, the CIA believes that drone strikes conducted in Pakistan since May 2010 have killed over 600 militants with no civilian fatalities.
The justification and success of U.S. drone warfare, however, is refuted in a recently completed joint study by Stanford University and New York University which concludes, "First: In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer by enabling targeted killing of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false. Second: U.S. drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover 24 hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.
Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. Third: evidence that the strikes have made the U.S. 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 percent. Furthermore, evidence suggests that U.S. strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks."
Retired General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of the International Afghanistan Security Force as well as Joint Special Operations Command-Seals -- on Jan. 7 said: " the use of drones exacerbates a perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can."
In a series titled "Permanent War," the Washington Post describes the "Disposition Matrix," a database that is reported to be the "next-generation capture/kill list." Developed by the Obama Administration beginning in 2010, the "Disposition Matrix" goes beyond former lists, and creates a blueprint for tracking, capturing, rendering or killing terrorism suspects; it is intended to become a permanent fixture of American policy.
The resources needed to identify, track and locate terrorists have increased exponentially.To continue updating the list the Pentagon will expand its intelligence effort by sending as many as 1,600 new "collectors" around the world to ferret out terror groups. The number of drone bases is also increasing with new ones being located in Djibouti, Niger and Saudi Arabia as well as Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Drone killing is being challenged and will have to answer in court whether it is legal under U.S. as well as international laws to assassinate alleged terrorists in countries that we are not at war with. The unanticipated results of drone war are the metastasized spread of al Qaeda and its progeny that are springing up throughout the Middle East and North Africa coupled with a virulent hatred of the U.S. in many Islamic countries. The Disposition Matrix is evidence that we will remain in a state of permanent war for many years to come.
Andrew Schoerke, of Shaftsbury is a member of Veterans For Peace.