For the last several years US government has not only attempted to cover-up the death toll of drone strikes, but often has no idea who is being killed. This may not come as a surprise to some, given that NBC News reported in 2013 that, “[a]bout one of every four of those killed by drones in Pakistan between Sept. 3, 2010, and Oct. 30, 2011, were classified as ‘other militants’… The ‘other militants’ label was used when the CIA could not determine the affiliation of those killed.” That figure does not include those killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, or any other country in which the US military, or CIA might feel the urge to kill people with unmanned aircraft.
The New York Times reports, “Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit. Gradually, it has become clear that when operators in Nevada fire missiles into remote tribal territories on the other side of the world, they often do not know who they are killing, but are making an imperfect best guess.”
Not only have hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians (i.e. people who are not identified as “potential insurgents,” mainly women & children) been killed in these drone strikes, in January two hostages were killed in a US drone strike against a suspected Al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan. However, it took the US government a couple of months to admit they had killed the hostages. After the admission, the Obama Administration said they would make a payment of compensation to the families of the slain hostages. Jason Ditz of Antiwar.com reports, “While wrongful death compensation isn’t an entirely foreign concept in the West, the White House’s combination of these payments with an insistence that the killings were in accordance with international law likely won’t sit well with many.” Adding, “the families of the slain aid workers are already criticizing the administration for its ‘inconsistent’ response to the initial hostage-taking, and are likely to see the pledge of money as trying to buy their silence on the matter.”
To make things worse, the Administration is likely not going to make any policy changes in regards to the drone wars. Why? According to approval in polls, about two-thirds of the American public support the drone wars, as does a majority in Congress. It’s theoretically possible that those who support the drone war are not aware of the civilian death toll, though it’s possible they simply don’t care.