Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
The Military Politics

Stanford-NYU Report: Drone Attacks Illegal, Counterproductive 362

trbdavies writes "In 'Living Under Drones,' investigators from Stanford and NYU Law Schools report on interviews with 130 people in Pakistan about U.S.-led drone attacks there, including 69 survivors and family members of victims. The report affirms Bureau of Investigative Journalism numbers that count '474 to 884 civilian deaths since 2004, including 176 children' while 'only about 2% of drone casualties are top militant leaders.' It also argues that the attacks violate international law and are counterproductive, stating: 'Evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the U.S. an enemy.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Stanford-NYU Report: Drone Attacks Illegal, Counterproductive

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:20PM (#41457507)
    Well, I guess it's time to hang up the drones, and dust of the ICBMs.
    • The other 26% already had that opinion...
    • by psherman2001 ( 2739057 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @09:29PM (#41458783)
      When I read a couple years ago that a strike had killed "mostly" militants, then the next day bombed everyone at the funeral... I felt suddenly empty. Who in their right mind would NOT think badly of the country responsible?

      I love my country and consider myself quite patriotic, but these drone attacks are shameful. They should be stopped. Aside from the obvious moral imperative, there is the practicality of it: every time we kill another "al-Qaeda #2" with these cowardly half-blind strikes from the sky we create many more enemies.

      Why do I hear so little protest here in the US? What can the average Joe do to raise hell about it?
      And where is the press on all this? I'm tired of hearing about Mitt Romney's taxes and President Obama's birth certificate. Let's get real.

      We've met the enemy...
  • by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:22PM (#41457521)

    Without the baseline information the summary is clearly propaganda.

  • So let's see... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:28PM (#41457575)

    Of the 176,745,364 people in Pakistan (according to World Bank), they chose 130 and managed to get more than half who were related to the "474 to 884" people who've died. You know, I could continue to point out the problems here, but it doesn't seem necessary. This entire "investigation" is complete and utter bullshit.

    • Re:So let's see... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @11:27PM (#41459735)

      There's no claim that this was a random survey. From the article:

      Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies.

      These interviews provided useful information about various things, such as the "double tap" attacks on rescuers:

      Another interviewee, Hayatullah Ayoub Khan, recounted a particularly harrowing incident that he said he experienced while driving between Dossali and Tal in North Waziristan.[163] He stated that a missile from a drone was fired at a car approximately three hundred meters in front of him, missing the car in front, but striking the road close enough to cause serious damage.[164] Hayatullah stopped, got out of his own car, and slowly approached the wreckage, debating whether he should help the injured and risk being the victim of a follow-up strike.[165] He stated that when he got close enough to see an arm moving inside the wrecked vehicle, someone inside yelled that he should leave immediately because another missile would likely strike.[166] He started to return to his car and a second missile hit the damaged car and killed whomever was still left inside.[167] He told us that nearby villagers waited another twenty minutes before removing the bodies, which he said included the body of a teacher from Hayatullah’s village.[168]

      Crucially, the threat of the “double tap” reportedly deters not only the spontaneous humanitarian instinct of neighbors and bystanders in the immediate vicinity of strikes, but also professional humanitarian workers providing emergency medical relief to the wounded. According to a health professional familiar with North Waziristan, one humanitarian organization had a “policy to not go immediately [to a reported drone strike] because of follow up strikes. There is a six hour mandatory delay.”[169] According to the same source, therefore, it is “only the locals, the poor, [who] will pick up the bodies of loved ones.”[170]

      The dissuasive effect that the “double tap” pattern of strikes has on first responders raises crucial moral and legal concerns. Not only does the practice put into question the extent to which secondary strikes comply with international humanitarian law’s basic rules of distinction, proportionality, and precautions, but it also potentially violates specific legal protections for medical and humanitarian personnel, and for the wounded.[171] As international law experts have noted, intentional strikes on first responders may constitute war crimes.[172]

      and the psychological effect of living in an area targeted for aerial attacks:

      One of the few accounts of living under drones ever published in the US came from a former New York Times journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban for months in FATA.[198] In his account, David Rohde described both the fear the drones inspired among his captors, as well as among ordinary civilians: “The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death.”[199] Describing the experience of living under drones as ‘hell on earth’, Rohde explained that even in the areas where strikes were less frequent, the people living there still feared for their lives.[200]

      Community members, mental health professionals, and journalists interviewed for this report described how the constant presence of US drones overhead leads to substantial levels of fear and stress in the civilian communities below.[201] One man described the reaction to the sound of the drones as “a wave of terror”

    • Re:So let's see... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Beetle B. ( 516615 ) <`beetle_b' `at' `'> on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @11:36PM (#41459793)

      Of the 176,745,364 people in Pakistan (according to World Bank), they chose 130 and managed to get more than half who were related to the "474 to 884" people who've died.

      Not at all sure what your point is. I haven't read the report, but your comment is without merit.

      They targeted a lot of people who were relatives of the deceased. They didn't randomly sample the country and then happen to get over 65 who were related to the deceased.

      And the problem with that is...?

  • The US and law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:32PM (#41457635)

    If the US was interested in following the spirit (if not the letter) of the law, then you wouldn't have things like "Special Rendition". That the US use drone attacks in a country where it doesn't even have a "police action" going on is not surprising. This is just an example of the "Same ol' same ol' ..Ends justifies the means" that has been used for decades (if not since the beginning of the 20th century).
    And yes .. I know .. anti-american foreigner and all that. Been there, heard the criticism and got the free T-shirt. But if you won't listen when your friends say "Woooo dude .. that's way out of line there", then pretty soon you aren't going to have any friends left.

  • Other opinions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:36PM (#41457673) Homepage

    On the other hand the Pakistan Military allowed the US to use Pakistani airbases for the drone strikes until 8 months ago, requested increased use of drone attacks in 2008, still offer tacit support for the drone attacks, and have themselves said most of those killed in drone strikes were terrorists [], despite the political inconvenience of admitting this (by contrast, Pakistan always denied their connection to terrorists working against India in Kashmir, even when the connection was obvious).

    The souring of relations with Pakistan centers on the raid on bin Laden, and just the natural friction between the US and a nation with a record of selling nuclear secrets on the black market, supporting the Taliban, and supporting terrorist actions against India.

    • by Arker ( 91948 )

      Pre-2011 the Pakistanis were co-operating under the radar while still begging the US to stop the strikes.

      You are correct the bin Laden raid was when that went sour, and it sounds like the Pakis have every reason to be upset about it. They provided the intel that led to him, they were told it didnt go anywhere (lied to) and then one day a US team drops into Islamabad and embarrased the hell out of them. Imagine if our foreign 'partners' took intelligence we gave them and it lead to their number one enemy - e

  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:45PM (#41457777) Homepage

    how else will the contractors make money?

    • how else will the contractors make money?

      By building body scanners and anal probes.

    • Simple, create fictional ones at home. Talk about sleeper terrorist cells right at home. You will literally have unlimited funding to defend the US from its own people. Security theater is still pretty small in the US, it can easily be a 100 billion dollar per year industry. If the security theater industry joins forces with the private prison industry, it can be even larger.

  • can't just go around killing people without making a few enemies.

  • Illegal (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @07:49PM (#41457829)

    If you are fighting a war against terrorists, and you play by the rules, and they don't, you are going to lose.

    • If you are fighting a war against terrorists, and you play by the rules, and they don't, you are going to lose.

      However, it does not follow from that that if you *don't* play by the rules you'll win.

      At some point you have to stop and think about what's smart, rather than what you have the might and the "right" to do.

    • If you are fighting insurgents you are most likely in the wrong side.

    • Re:Illegal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:36PM (#41458257)

      And this right here folks is why Americans shouldn't be allowed at the grown-ups' table.

      Yes you can "play by the rules" and get the right result. In fact, in Ireland it was only once the British really stopped breaking the rules and adopted a more respectful pose that they made progress. Not playing by the rules just gives ammunition and recruits to your opponents - after all they're painting you as the aggressor here.

      How many civilian casualties would have been OK for a drone strike on Timothy McVeigh? Should the Brits have bombed areas of Belfast? How about some extraordinary rendition for anyone who gave money to NORAID (a US based fund directly given to the IRA)?

      Drone strikes like these don't reduce the number of enemies - they increase them. Every innocent civilian killed (and they are to be presumed innocent until proven guilty) is a klaxon call to take up arms. When fathers and brothers are killed, who do you think people turn to when they need a new guiding figure in their lives? Would you accept the deaths of your spouse and children because they were in the same region as a terrorist?

      Acting like you're some kind of cowboy sheriff isn't going to fix things. This isn't the wild west - it's a country of hundreds of millions of people. Going in guns blazing just makes you the enemy to more and more people, and all the time the terrorists can hold up pictures of the dead innocents as proof that you are the indeed the great Satan that they claim.

      You know there are two reasons why the police get hauled over the coals when they break the rules. The first is that people, even guilty ones, have rights. But the second reason is to protect the police themselves: Once they are seen to be corrupt their legitimacy shatters. When this happens they lose the support of the ordinary people, who will stop complying with them. This leads to a total breakdown of law and order, as has been seen countless times across (eg) African nations.

      So play by the rules. Breaking them is immoral, it is repugnant, and even worse than all that: It doesn't work.

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      If you are fighting a war against terrorists, and you play by the rules, and they don't, you are going to lose.

      Oooh, I know one more rule about "war against terrorists"!

      If you are fighting a war against terrorists, you are never going to win because that's one of the least defined terms. If we were at least talking about one organization... but we are talking about an extensive list of unrelated organizations that changes periodically (usually growing).

      It's akin to "War against Drugs" and "War against Poverty", which coincidentally also tend to skim the rules for the greater cause.

    • by Arker ( 91948 )

      Actually you could not have gotten that more backwards. If you are fighting terrorists, and you dont play by the rules, they win. Simple as that.

      Their entire goal is to trigger disproportionate/oppressive responses. Our rules, our Constitution, our tradition of Law, are our greatest assets in this fight, and they are desperate to convince us to surrender those assets. When we do what they want, we lose.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:07PM (#41457987) Homepage

    "illegal", no. The aerial bombing (the bombers being unmanned is irrelevant) of Pakistan would be an act of war were it not being done with the permission of the Pakistani government (they are neither trying to shoot down the bombers nor filing official complaints with the UN). As it is being done with permission, it is legally a bilateral Pakistani and USA affair. It is, unfortunately, not a violation of USA law and evidently not a violation of Pakistani law either. Until the givernment of Pakistan tries to stop it by, at minimum, formally demanding that it stop it is not legally anyone else's business (which is not to say it is not wrong: it is).

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:32PM (#41458233)

      The report says "current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents." Killing people the government deems inconvenient, with no oversight, legal process or warning, and collateral damage to boot, might not be strictly illegal but it's certainly against the spirit of both US and international law and custom,and sets a dangerous precedent.

    • Yes, in the early years the Pakistani government was tacitly (but not expliclity) co-operating, providing intelligence and even a base to operate from. That arrangement ended in early 2011. They have since repeatedly demanded that the attacks cease, and been steadfastly ignored by both the US Government and US media for their trouble.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @09:07PM (#41458521)

    'only about 2% of drone casualties are top militant leaders.'

    Most wars would stop fast, if 2% of casualties from the war were top leaders. It says something impressive both about the targeting ability of the US military and the resilience of the "militants" being targeted.

  • Since Sept 11 attacks killed 2,996 non combatants.
    So I'm guessing your murder rate is a teeny weeny bit less justifiable.

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.