Georgetown Professor: 'Drones Are Not Killing Innocent Civilians' in Pakistan

I'm not sure how many of you caught the segment last Friday on the
Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC featuring Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a 25 year
army veteran and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency's
Task Force STRATUS IVY and Georgetown University professor Christine
Fair of the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). The two were
discussing the alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and
potential connections to the Taliban in Pakistan. In the discussion,
Lt. Col. Shaffer raised the issue of US drone strikes against Pakistan,
which Shahzad reportedly has said were part of his motivation for the
attempted bombing. "The Taliban are more motivated than ever to come at
us," said Shaffer, saying that "the Predator program is having the same
effect in Afghanistan two years ago in killing innocents" that it is
now having in Pakistan.

Professor Fair, who has also worked for the RAND Corporation and as
a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to
Afghanistan in Kabul, acted dumbfounded at the idea that the US drone
strikes kill any civilians. "I take extreme exception top the way my
colleague characterized the drones," Fair said. "Actually the drones
are not killing innocent civilians. Many of those reports are coming
from deeply unreliable and dubious Pakistani press reports, which no
one takes credibly on any other issue except for some reason on this
issue. There've actually been a number of surveys on the ground, in
FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. The residents of FATA
generally welcome the drone strikes because they know actually who's
being killed. They're very much aware and who's being killed and who's

Here is video of the segment:

Some estimates, most of which are indeed Pakistani sources, suggest
that the vast majority of Pakistanis killed are civilians. In an Op-Ed [1] for The New York Times
last year, David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, called for a moratorium on
the strikes, saying they had "killed some 700 civilians. This is 50
civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." They
relied on "Pakistani sources," which are apparently offensive to
Professor Fair. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New
America Foundation recently did a meticulous review [2] of the strikes, citing the following methodology:

"Our analysis of the drone campaign is based only on
accounts from reliable media organizations with substantial reporting
capabilities in Pakistan. We restricted our analysis to reports in the
New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by
major news services and networks--the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence
France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC--and reports in the leading
English-language newspapers in Pakistan--The Daily Times, Dawn, and The
News--as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani
television network."

Bergen and Tiedemann concluded that "the real total of civilian
deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 250 to 320, or between
31 and 33 percent." They concluded that under President Obama Under
President Obama, who has used the drones with much greater frequency
than Bush, "about a quarter [of drone-inflicted deaths] appear to have
been civilians."

I expect that Professor Fair, if confronted on this, will have to
retract her definitive statement "the drones are not killing innocent
civilians." It just simply is false.

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 The Nation