The most recent, relevant piece I published on it was during the summer of 2013 and titled: The Truth About Drones.
Here’s an excerpt:
A lot of Americans have an impression that drone strikes are less damaging to civilian populations than conventional airstrikes. This would be false. In fact, earlier this month I highlighted an article from the Guardian that demonstrated how in reality drone strikes are 10x more likely to harm civilians per incident. Now, thanks to a recently leaked document we find that many more civilians including children have been killed in these strikes than many of us would like to admit. In fact, of the 746 people killed in drone strikes in Pakistan from 2006-2009, an incredible 20% were civilians and 94 (13% of the total) were children.
I strongly believe that the reason so many Americans blindly support the widespread use of drones is due to the mistaken belief that they are precise and result in few civilian casualties. It’s important to get some of the facts out to the public in order to have a more informed debate on the matter.
In the latest news, the Guardian reports that:
The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur.
Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.
However many Americans know who Zawahiri is, far fewer are familiar with Qari Hussain. Hussain was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group aligned with al-Qaida that trained the would-be Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, before his unsuccessful 2010 attack. The drones first came for Hussain years before, on 29 January 2008. Then they came on 23 June 2009, 15 January 2010, 2 October 2010 and 7 October 2010.
Finally, on 15 October 2010, Hellfire missiles fired from a Predator or Reaper drone killed Hussain, the Pakistani Taliban later confirmed. For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the US killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.
A new analysis of the data available to the public about drone strikes, conducted by the human-rights group Reprieve, indicates that even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls “targeted killing” – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times.Attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,147 people, as of 24 November.
Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.
Like all weapons, drones will inevitably miss their targets given enough chances. But the secrecy surrounding them obscures how often misses occur and the reasons for them. Even for the 33 named targets whom the drones eventually killed – successes, by the logic of the drone strikes – another 947 people died in the process.