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Common Dreams

'Naming the Dead' in Pakistan's Hidden Drone War

With most casualties unidentified, and civilian deaths denied by US, initiative aims to track every person killed in Pakistan drone strikes

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A group of journalists will embark on a simple yet powerful endeavor Monday: listing the names of people killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

The initiative of the not-for-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, to be featured on their website "Naming the Dead," will aim to build a comprehensive list of all those killed by an estimated 374 U.S. drone strikes since 2004, a majority of them under President Obama. This will include determination of civilian or militant status, reports the Guardian, which broke the news that the organization will soon start listing names.

The first segment of these names, to be published Monday in English and Urdu, will include 200 adult civilians and 95 children.

While US strikes have so far killed at least 2,500 people, 80 percent of those are unidentified and unknown to the world beyond their own communities and loved ones.

The U.S. government claims that a vast majority of those killed in these covert attacks are combatants, yet these claims are contested by experts, journalists, and witnesses on the ground, with Bureau of Investigative Journalism researchers showing numbers of civilian deaths are alarmingly high.

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The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has played a key role in exposing covert U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia and has won awards for its coverage. Experts say this new initiative will shed critical light on U.S. drone wars, not only in Pakistan, but throughout the region.

"I think this is a tremendously important project," Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy told Common Dreams. "We are told drones are magic super-weapons that never kill civilians, and the U.S. government was just talking about bombing Syria with cruise missiles. If 20 percent of people killed in Pakistan are civilian, when we are using the magic super-weapon, what would happen in a 2 to 3 month air war on Syria?"

He added, "This shows why it is really crucial to stick our nose into who's being killed by U.S. power."

In a video announcing the initiative, Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer with legal campaign group Reprieve, declared, "We can't start getting to the bottom of who's being killed until we know the names of those who have been killed," 

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