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Who knows what, if anything, about the use of those drones

Drones are all the news right now.    There seems little doubt that their widespread use is going to continue - not only internationally, but domestically as well.   It's an issue which confronts us all - and ought to be taken very seriously.  

This piece, "What we don't know about drones" in The New Yorker, provides an invaluable insight into the use of drones.   Well worth reading in full....

"Indeed, if there is one overriding factor in America’s secret wars—especially in its drone campaign—it’s that the U.S. is operating in an information black hole. Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate. When an employee of the C.I.A. fires a missile from an unmanned drone into a compound along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he almost certainly doesn’t know for sure whom he’s shooting at. Most drone strikes in Pakistan, as an American official explained to me during my visit there in 2011, are what are known as “signature strikes.” That is, the C.I.A. is shooting at a target that matches a pattern of behavior that they’ve deemed suspicious. Often, they get it right and they kill the bad guys. Sometimes, they get it wrong. When Brennan claimed, as he did in 2011—clearly referring to the drone campaign—that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death,” he was most certainly wrong.

The same is true of opponents of the drone war, who sometimes lay claim to much more knowledge than they actually possess. And so, when a Pakistani newspaper reports that twenty civilians were killed in an attack, it is often taken as gospel truth, even though, as is often the case, the reporting is done over the telephone. For Americans—who are, after all, the ones whose country is firing the drones—it’s more or less impossible to independently verify many details of a drone strike. The reason is obvious: for a Western diplomat or reporter to go to the area where most of the drone strikes have taken place would be reckless in the extreme. (I’ve been to the tribal areas twice on my own. The first time, I was arrested and expelled by the Pakistani government; the second time, I was invited by a Taliban warlord who was killed six weeks later. Each trip took days of preparation and negotiation to arrange.)

The best and most painstaking attempts to get at the truth of the drone war—like one by the New America foundation—acknowledge the difficulty of the enterprise. The New America study found that between 2004 and 2010, the U.S. carried out a hundred and fourteen strikes, which the study’s authors estimated killed between eight hundred and thirty and twelve hundred and ten people. Of those, the study found, between five hundred and fifty and eight hundred and fifty—roughly two-thirds—were probably militants. Included in the dead were many militant leaders. That means that roughly a third of the dead—several hundred—were probably civilians. That’s a lot of bodies. These may be the best estimates we have, but they are still approximations."

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