Obama embraces disputed definition of ‘civilian’ in drone attacks


Tribesmen hold pieces of a missile at the site of a drone attack in Mir Ali, Pakistan, on Jan. 24, 2009 — just days after President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Reuters, file

MSNBC | May 30, 2012

By Chris Woods

LONDON — Two U.S. reports published Tuesday provide significant insights into President Obama’s personal and controversial role in the escalating covert U.S. drone war in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

In a major extract from Daniel Klaidman’s forthcoming book Kill Or Capture, the author reveals extensive details of how secret U.S. drone strikes have evolved under Obama – and how the president knew of civilian casualties from his earliest days in office.

The New York Times has also published a key investigation exploring how the Obama Administration runs its secret ‘Kill List’ – the names of those chosen for execution by CIA and Pentagon drones outside the conventional battlefield.

The Times’ report also reveals that President Obama “embraced” a broadening of the term “civilian”, helping to limit any public controversy over “non-combatant” deaths.

As the Bureau’s own data on Pakistan makes clear, the very first covert drone strikes of the Obama presidency, just three days after he took office, resulted in civilian deaths in Pakistan. As many as 19 civilians – including four children – died in two error-filled attacks.

Until now it had been thought that Obama was initially unaware of the civilian deaths. Bob Woodward has reported that the president was only told by CIA chief Michael Hayden that the strikes had missed their High Value Target but had killed “five al Qaeda militants.”

Read more stories from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Now Newsweek correspondent Daniel Klaidman reveals that Obama knew about the civilian deaths within hours. He reports an anonymous participant at a subsequent meeting with the president: “You could tell from his body language that he was not a happy man.” Obama is described aggressively questioning the tactics used.

Yet despite the errors, the president ultimately chose to keep in place the CIA’s controversial policy of using “signature strikes” against unknown militants. That tactic has just been extended to Yemen.

‘Covert’ US drone operation is mapped on Twitter

On another notorious occasion, the article reveals that U.S. officials were aware at the earliest stage that civilians – including “dozens of women and children” – had died in Obama’s first ordered strike in Yemen in December 2009. The Bureau recently named all 44 civilians killed in that attack by cruise missiles.

Full Story

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s